One of my most cherished memories of childhood was going for hikes with my dad in Mill Creek Park. I think the first one I remember was the One Way Trail, which at one time was One Way Road, beginning near the Green House, occupied by park foremen, on Lake Glacier, opposite the Parapet Bridge and ascending to overlook the Lily Pond and coming out by Bears Den Road. I also remember class trips starting at the Lily Pond with park naturalist Lindley Vickers
Trails generally run along the east and west sides of the lakes and gorges of Mill Creek. I grew up on the West Side, near the north end of the park. So walking the whole length of the trails was a challenge. Before I drove, I’d often ride to a trail entrance, and then walk my bike on a portion of the trails. Some of my favorite were the trails along the east and west sides of Lake Cohasset, one of the most beautiful parts of the park. My other favorite was the West Gorge Trail between Lake Cohasset and Lanterman’s Mill. This stretch helps you see how the creek carved out the gorge over generations and seemed to me one of the most untouched parts of the park.
The climax of this walk came as you approached Youngstown-Canfield Road and the falls and mill just beyond, framed by the bridge. This was a view you could only see on the trail. Two other short trails, on either side of the Hemlock Gorge flowing north from Pioneer Pavilion are also quite scenic. The one on the west is appropriately called Artist’s Trail. One the other side is Slippery Rock Trail, leading to Slippery Rock Pavilion.
I most often traveled along the west side of Lake Glacier. It is a whole different view if you take the East Glacier Trail, which runs the length of Lake Glacier from Volney Rogers Field to Slippery Rock Pavilion, with a close up view of the Parapet Bridge.
There were no wetlands at Lake Newport when I grew up. The trails followed the lake on either side, coming out at Shields Road. Now there is a boardwalk wetland trail, allowing people to walk through the wetlands while keeping their feet dry. East Newport Drive is now only open to one way, northbound traffic, and serves as a paved walking and cycling trail. On the other side of Shields, the road on the east side of Mill Creek is now closed to vehicles entirely, making for an easy walking and cycling trail, arched by trees.
Looking at the current trail map of the park, I don’t see some of the trails I remember, such as the Bears Den Trail running from the parking lot to the rock formations, or the trail between the Lily Pond and the Rock Garden that followed a creek. I know there are quite a few trails in John Melnick’s The Green Cathedral (pp. 409-411) that I don’t see on today’s park maps. I wonder if these have been kept up. It would be interesting to go back and explore!
What walking the trails gave was a sense of the rugged beauty of the park. The trails were up and down, following the contours of the gorge. There was so much of the park you could not see just driving or walking along the roads. Nor could you listen to the burbling of the creek unless you walked along. In the fall, you could savor the smell and crunch of fallen leaves. It was part of the wisdom of Volney Rogers and those who worked with him to lay out trails, occasionally with bridges or stone steps, but mostly just packed dirt that gave you a sense that you were walking in the park, and not just through it. They are part of what make it such a special place.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!