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Horse park on Mill Creek property blindsided by board’s decision to cut ties

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ELLSWORTH TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – The attorney for Buckeye Horse Park thought there were just minor issues to be settled on a new lease with Mill Creek MetroParks. So when park commissioners voted Thursday night to stop negotiations, he was as surprised as anyone.

“I don’t know how to react.”

Attorney Darrell Markijohn represents the Buckeye Horse Park, the volunteers of which he says built and maintained the barns, show ring and trails on Route 224, just west of Canfield.

Friday evening, a single horse and pony were practicing in the ring.

“This place would have been packed with people, and it is completely empty,” Markijohn said.

This weekend, a big pony show had been planned, but it was canceled when the horse park’s lease with Mill Creek was not renewed.

After MetroParks commissioners requested further negotiations, Markijohn says a May 14 meeting produced what he thought were the makings of a deal.

“As we walked out, we had a renewed belief that, ‘OK, this is great. The park district has decided to earnestly rethink whatever thought they had,'” Markijohn said.

Then Thursday afternoon at 4:10 p.m., Markijohn said he received an email from the MetroParks’ lawyer stating there was a new lease to be discussed.

“At 7:30 p.m., my phone blows up,” Markijohn said.

The Metroparks Board of Commissioners, after hearing from Executive Director Aaron Young, had decided to end negotiations with Buckeye Horse Park.

“This is not a dispute over terms. This is a policy decision that they just don’t want to have a relationship with us. Quite frankly, we had feared that perhaps was the underlying motivation of the director all along,” Markijohn said.

Young stressed at Thursday’s meeting that Buckeye Horse Park can still rent the facility and use it for horse shows.

“It is actually more beneficial, in my opinion, for their organization to pay the rental fee than it would be to lease the facility for sole use,” Young said.

“The park would be well served to have a custodian, a custodian who was paying the park — paying them a yearly rent to run the facility for them but also to maintain it,” Markijohn said.

Markijohn says he will not recommend taking the issue to court and does not know if Buckeye Horse Park will eventually rent the property and use it for shows.

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