CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – The Mill Creek MetroParks Board of Commissioners met Thursday evening and decided to end all negotiations with Buckeye Horse Park and, as was decided two months ago, will run the horse park and the surrounding land on its own.
The president of the horse park, Susan Smith-Gordon, who was not at the meeting, said she was shocked with the decision, saying she had been optimistic that the two sides could come to an agreement.
At the meeting, MetroParks Board Executive Director Aaron Young reiterated his preference to not renew the lease for Buckeye Horse Park, which is located at the Vicker’s Nature Preserve on Route 224, west of Canfield.
“The preference of administration is to not lease the facility and allow it to be utilized by anybody that comes and wants to rent the facility,” he said.
At a meeting in April attended by 50 people from Buckeye Horse Park, commissioners voted to end the horse park’s 25-year lease. But after several people spoke of the injustice of terminating the lease, the board redirected Young to negotiate a new lease, and talks were taking place.
“Do we want them to continue to negotiate the lease?” asked MetroParks Board President Lee Frey.
But at Thursday evening’s meeting, Young raised the issue of continuing the negotiations.
“What I’m conflicted with is trying to follow the directions of the board and negotiate in good faith with a partner knowing that there’s intention on the administration’s end. So what are we negotiating?” Young said.
In the end, the board voted 4 to 1 to end the negotiations, with commissioner Germaine Bennett the lone vote on continuing.
The board also approved sending Buckeye Horse Park officials a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that would close out the previous lease. It also spells out the money, as per the lease, owed to the MetroParks that was raised on the property.
“The reason that the MoU is a draft is because we don’t know exactly how much that is. We think it’s in the area of $9,000,” Young said.
Buckeye Horse Park can still use the facility, but it will be on a rental basis like any other property in Mill Creek MetroParks.
Smith-Gordon said she was under the impression everything was OK at a meeting on May 14. Thursday night, she released the following statement:
“We are so shocked. The meeting went so well on the 14th. We had hope. They led us to believe they were negotiating in good faith for a lease. We were optimistic for a new agreement.”