First of all, I have to say a big “thank you” to all of you (mostly Youngstowners and former Youngstowners) who viewed and commented on my last post on Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Food. Far and away, this has been the most viewed post in my nine month experience of blogging. It has been a delight to share food memories with so many other Youngstowners (and our laments over the lack of good Italian food anywhere else!).
Along with food, Mill Creek Park (now MetroPark) has played a huge part in many of our lives growing up. The park grew up along the course of Mill Creek, a scenic stream that flowed into the industrial Mahoning River. It was initially created through the efforts of Youngstown attorney Volney Rogers in 1891. In 1906, Lake Glacier was created by damning the stream at a narrow point. I remember that it was during the 1960s that the Lake Glacier Boat House was built. Lake Newport, added to the park through a land donation in 1924, was dammed in 1928. More recently, the south end has been allowed to revert to a wetlands area. By far, the most beautiful of the lakes in my opinion is Lake Cohasset, the earliest to be created, in 1897. Lanterman’s Mill, the recipient of proceeds from the sales of Recipes of Youngstown, and featured on the book’s cover, was built in 1845-46 and is still in operation and you can purchase freshly ground grain from the mill. (All the factual information for this part of my post comes from Wikipedia.)
Located southwest of the industrial belt of steel mills lining the Mahoning River that runs through Youngstown, the park provided a respite from the hard work, noise, and pollution associated with steel-making. Picnic shelters situated throughout the park provided a wonderful place for family gatherings. Taking boats out onto Lakes Glacier or Newport on a summer Sunday afternoon or a baseball game on one of the diamonds at Rocky Ridge (now the James L Wick Recreation Area) or an evening family walk with day old bread to feed the gold fish at the Lily Pond were refreshing breaks from work in the mills or other manufacturing plants.
My life’s journey runs through Mill Creek Park even though we haven’t lived in Youngstown for many years. I treasure walks my dad and I took along the many trails running through the park. I still remember a Saturday morning when we got up early, took a frying pan, bacon and eggs, and made breakfast over an open fire at one of the fire rings in the park. My brother and his wife had wedding photographs taken on the little footbridge near the boat house at Lake Glacier in 1968 (I was best man). Often when I had free time in high school or college, I would be on my bike, riding the roads through the park, sometimes finding a scenic overlook where I might read or write or just think. Fellows Riverside Gardens, a beautiful public garden developed beginning in the 1960s was the site of countless wedding photographs (including ours in 1978) overlooking Lake Glacier and the site of our best friend’s daughter’s wedding just a few years back. In 2001, we celebrated my parents 60th anniversary at the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center. In my fathers last years (he passed in 2012), one of our cherished memories was rides through the park and listening to him revisit his youthful memories.
When we were growing up, the park reminded us that life was not all hard work and toil–that there was beauty, and peace, and goodness to life as well. I may not be able to speak to this as well as those who still live in the Youngstown area, but I sense that the renewed efforts to maintain the park in the formation of the MetroPark district represents a symbol of hope that as Youngstown seeks to “re-invent” itself, this city can be a good place not only to work, but to live.