New Leetonia walking park, trailhead open

This image shows the area behind the Leetonia Beehive Coke Ovens after completion of the new Community Nature Park, which will serve as a new trailhead for the Green Way Bike Trail. (Submitted photo)

This image shows the area behind the Leetonia Beehive Coke Ovens after completion of the new Community Nature Park, which will serve as a new trailhead for the Green Way Bike Trail. (Submitted photo)

LEETONIA–After nearly six years since first securing funds for a park behind the coke ovens, the village administration is ready to showcase the start of something special.

Mayor Kevin Siembida and village council are hosting a dedication ceremony for the Leetonia Beehive Coke Oven Community Nature Park at noon Thursday. The entrance to the new trailhead is located at 99 E. High St. between the American Legion and Sportsman Club. Lunch will be provided.

The 25-acre park connects the 10-acre coke ovens facility with the Green Way Bike Trail.

“It’s a key link between the bike trail and the historic coke ovens,” explained Village Administrator Gary Phillips, noting the village purchased the 25 acres in 2011 with Clean Ohio Funds under the stipulation it be made into a park.

“The coke ovens will remain a historical park while the trailhead will be a nature walking park,” he added. “The land is right between the bike trail and the coke ovens, with the Sportsman Club right there. We wanted to get the property in order to protect all the area.”

This image shows the area behind the Leetonia Beehive Coke Ovens before completion of the new Community Nature Park, which will serve as a new trailhead for the Green Way Bike Trail. (Submitted photo)

This image shows the area behind the Leetonia Beehive Coke Ovens before completion of the new Community Nature Park, which will serve as a new trailhead for the Green Way Bike Trail. (Submitted photo)

The trialhead includes 32 parking spaces (including two handicap and two bus/RV), a shelter with picnic tables, a bike rack, a portable toilet. It will eventually include a bike repair structure, as well as an informational kiosk constructed as a local Eagle Scout project.

The park includes a quarter mile stone walking trail that is ADA compliant, linking the trailhead to the coke ovens. Eventually the trail park will feature benches along the current trail, plus construction of additional walking trails throughout the property, one of which will create a loop through the coke ovens.

“This is the foundation for the long term,” Phillips said. “It’s going to make a really, really nice park when it’s done.”

Siembida praised the new park as a vital component in the revitalization of the village.

“It’s absolutely essential in the rebuilding of Leetonia – drawing people in and showing outsiders the village and what we have to offer here,” he said. “We now have a base to expand and be successful.”

A quarter mile stone walking trail leads from the new Green Way Bike Trail trailhead off East High Street in Leetonia to the coke ovens park. (Salem News photo by Kevin Howell)

A quarter mile stone walking trail leads from the new Green Way Bike Trail trailhead off East High Street in Leetonia to the coke ovens park. (Salem News photo by Kevin Howell)

The coke ovens property was donated to the village in 1982 by Max Nobel to be used as a park and was registered into the National Register of Historical Places by the National Parks Service.

The Nature Park trailhead property was purchased from Gurlea Holdings in 2011 with Clean Ohio Funds. Since that time, village administration has been working to secure funding for the trailhead and nature park.

The total project cost is just over $309,000, with funding coming from the Ohio Department of Transportation Alternative Program Funds ($185,667), Access Midstream Grant ($14,200), Community Development Block Grant Formula Funds ($45,685) and the remainder from the village.

With an eye toward linking the bike trail through the village – currently it stops at Washington Street before picking back up at the new trailhead – Siembida said it a tremendous feeling seeing the evidence of the hard work going into making the village viable again.

“It’s great to see things starting to come together, the bike trail, the downtown,” he said. “It’s great to see that we are making that connection.”

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