YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) has joined the court case of Mill Creek MetroParks and its desire to acquire private property as part of an expansion of a bike trail.

OPRA’s involvement is as a “friend of the court” or amicus. A brief was filed last week by the agency with the Ohio Supreme Court. The high court has agreed to hear an appeal by Mill Creek in its battle to acquire land for the expansion of the Greenway Bike and Hike Trail, specifically land owned by Diane Less in Green Township.

The park has sought to acquire the land through eminent domain.

OPRA filed a brief in support of Mill Creek Metroparks saying that a lower court erred in its ruling in favor of Less and that park systems have long provided amenities to communities through eminent domain as a necessity and that a proper hearing was not conducted to prove that necessity.

The organization went on to say that they have a “statewide interest in helping secure its members’ ability to do what parks do best: conserve natural resources and provide Ohioans access to space and recreational activities,” adding that bikeways conserve natural resources, provide health benefits, and are a collaboration among several agencies for the common good of residents – all reasons for necessity.

Less has maintained that there are other options for the continuation of the bike trail. Right now, the Mill Creek bike and hike trail ends four and a half miles from Less’ farm on Western Reserve Road. The plan is to spend $6 million to extend it six miles, along an abandoned railroad line, linking it with the Greenway Trail in Columbiana County. Less wants the bike trail moved to have it run along Washingtonville Road.

OPRA is asking for the case to be sent back to the trial court where a hearing of necessity should be conducted and that will “make clear to all concerned, park districts, property owners, and trial courts, that the statutory scheme that governs lands appropriation is mandatory.”

Less’s attorney can file a response to the OPRA brief.