Leetonia historic coke ovens get improved drainage system

LEETONIA- An extensive drainage project that has significantly altered the appearance of the historic Cherry Valley Beehive Coke Ovens in Leetonia is almost complete.

The park will remain closed through the winter as the grounds recover from the construction of an underground drainage system that will reroute the water runoff that had filled the mine shafts into a nearby creek to the east of the park. The $250,000 project is being completed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources with grant funding from the Office of Surface Mining.

According to Justin Hite, Leetonia’s community development coordinator, the drainage system includes five manholes and several rock-lined channels that catch the water and route through underground pipes to the creek, eliminating most of the water that has collected in the coke oven shafts. The system has been pumping water out, at a pace of one million gallons a day at one point, since the middle of October, and the difference is already visible, with discoloration showing where the water has lowered more than a foot in most places.

Hite said the water was nice to look at for what it was- mine water- but that ultimately it was damaging the ovens, blowing out walls and causing collapses.

“Our primary objective is preserving the ovens,” he said.

Once the water is drained, the park will probably require some additional excavating to fill the canals with gravel or stone, Hite said, noting that village officials do not know how deep they really are due to sediment at the bottom.

Currently the only cost the village has had to invest is in-kind labor to remove the tree stumps from the excavation along Main Street, which has seen the removal of all but one tree from the previously dense wooded area.

Hite said the trees, invasive in nature, had to be removed because they prevented access for the system. The area will be graded into a slight hill and resod, with the possibility of a new tree line in the future, he said.

Removing the trees does have its benefits, though, Hite said, noting that it makes the grounds easier to manage as far as erosion is concerned.

“Plus it opens [the park] up to a view from [Main Street], makes it more accessible,” he said.

The project is scheduled to be complete in the next couple weeks.