(WKBN) — Since 2020, Mill Creek MetroParks has paid the Youngstown law firm Roth Blair over $336,932 to handle the legalities of extending the MetroParks’ Bikeway. Earlier Monday, MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young spoke about MetroParks’ pursuit to finish extending the bike trail.
“Well I think it’s a lot of money,” said Young.
The legal fees were needed to deal with property owners along a six-mile stretch of land between Western Reserve Road and the Columbiana County line — where the MetroParks bike trail would be extended.
MetroParks has tried acquiring some of the land through eminent domain.
“I’m not a fan of eminent domain. But unfortunately in the profession, this is where we are,” said Young.
Young said in 1993 the park board passed a resolution stating that a bike trail through Mahoning County was “of need and community benefit.” Which around 2005 led to the board accepting a $3.4 million federal grant to extend the bikeway.
“The MetroParks accepted funding to construct a project on land to which it did not own…It’s a unique process and one that certainly this administration didn’t bring to the park…Unfortunately by accepting that money the park made the decision at that time that, in order to move forward, if eminent domain was required that they were going to go through that process,” said Young.
So when Young became Executive Director in 2015, he inherited the bike path extension project.
“What’s been so difficult about this process being the executive director of Mill Creek MetroParks, I don’t like being brought into problems that I haven’t been part of from the beginning,” said Young.
But like it or not, Young understands now that he’s in the position it’s his job to see the project through.
“I happen to be the quarterback in the fourth quarter to finish the job,” said Young.
Two weeks ago, the Seventh District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of landowner Diane Less in her effort to stop her land from being acquired through eminent domain. Young said a decision on how to move forward should be made at the next MetroParks board meeting on May 9.