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Donations will fund intern for coke oven renovations

April 17, 2011
By KEVIN HOWELL - Staff writer ( , Salem News

LEETONIA - The Cherry Valley Coke Oven Advisory Commission is collecting donations to help fund a summer intern to design the landscape of the proposed renovations at the coke ovens site.

Through the Americorps Summer Program, the village will host Marin Braco, a landscape architecture graduate student at the State University of New York (SUNY) of Environmental Science and Forestry. She will be working on the project for 10 weeks beginning in June.

The commission must raise $2,800 to serve as host. Anyone wishing to make donations may send checks payable to the village to Leetonia Village Hall, 300 E. Main St., Leetonia OH 44431.

According to commission Chairman Bill Merdich, Braco will help establish the initial design for the 35 acres that will constitute the renovated site, the first step in securing funds for the project.

"No one funds you until you get that blueprint on paper," he said. "[Braco] will help us put a picture together for what we want to do."

The proposed project will include the restoration of the ovens and railroad car aisles to their original state, reconstruction of an original barn to house an industrial museum and study space and creation of a botanical garden and walking trail around the site that can be incorporated into the Little Beaver Creek Greenway Trail to expose Leetonia to travelers.

By working with a graduate student, the village could save a significant amount of money while having a hands-on role in the design.

"We'll be able to work closely with what's being done, something we probably wouldn't get to do if a larger company were to handle it," Merdich said.

Merdich further noted that once funding is secured for the project, having the design ready will enable the village to move ahead quickly.

"This is a process that will have to be done anyway, so we're getting a headstart at a lower cost," he said. "We'll already know what is plausible, what is affordable."

Braco studied art history at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., before serving as an AmeriCorp volunteer after graduation, assisting on the reclamation of an abandoned coal mine site for which she had to research the industrial, social and cultural history of the site and act as liaison between project coordinators, the artist, community organizations, researchers and neighbors.

Currently she is working to develop a master plan for a 600-acre historically significant farm in the North Country of New York state.

Kevin Howell can be reached at



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