Leetonia’s Beehive Coke Oven Park closed for diversion of mine runoff

LEETONIA – The Beehive Coke Oven Park is currently closed to visitors and will likely remain so through November for construction.

Village Administrator Gary Phillips reported at the regular Village Council meeting Wednesday night that the park is closed to visitors while the Ohio Department of Natural Resources completes a project that will divert mine drainage water away from the historic coke ovens to a safer location in the park. Construction is expected to be finished no later than November.

The project is being funded by a grant from the Office of Surface Mining from a non-emergency, public health and safety fund. The water, which currently drains into the ovens from an abandoned mine shaft, will be diverted to the north end of the park to hopefully help stabilize the ovens that have been compromised because of the rapidly flowing mine water.

Justin Hite, community development coordinator, reported that in addition to the ODNR work at the park, the scope of a Clean Ohio Grant will be changed to an estimated at $539,101 for a project for trail addition and reforestation to the adjacent property council purchased to incorporate into the park, increasing accessibility to the entire park. The grant initially called for $200,000 to purchase the property.

The project is at a nominal cost to the village, according to Council President Dan Summers.

“We’re working on three grants to get this fantastic project going,” he said.

Hite said a Coke Ovens meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Leetonia library to discuss funding for the project.

In other business council discussed a residential garage on a Columbia Street property slated for demolition by the county.

Summers expressed displeasure that the building, which he said doesn’t appear to have been lived in for 50 years, is being razed to the benefit of the landowner with money that could be utilized elsewhere. He said the structure, which he said does not appear to be a hazard, should be handled through the village’s zoning ordinance.

“They let [the building] go, and then get bailed out,” he said.

Zoning Inspector John Rydarowicz said the structure, the front of which he said is caving in, was added to the list of demolitions because he could not get consent from landowners of other possible structures. He said there have been complaints about the building and a safety concern for area children. He noted that no tax money is used to raze the structures and that landowners of all properties being torn down are allowed to rebuild on the land.

Also at the meeting, council granted permission for police Det. George Long to attend a homicide investigation seminar Oct. 1 through 3 at a cost of $315 plus $79 per night for three nights, and Police Chief John Soldano to attend the state attorney general’s Law Enforcement Conference Oct. 29 and 30 at a cost of $75. Summers requested both men report back to council following the events.

Councilwoman Shana Prince announced that she will step down as council’s representative to the Parks Board and will be replaced by Councilman Mark Gardner.

Hite announced that he will conduct a “Business After Hours” informal networking session and free workshop at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Leetonia library. Hosted through the Leetonia/Washingtonville Area Chamber of Commerce, the event is open to all current or prospective business owners and will offer a guide to getting the most out of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Artisans Festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 15 in Wick Park.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at Village Hall, preceded by a meeting to discuss insurance at 6 p.m.