Portage Parks on the Grow!


TW-Hopewell-StonePortage Parks are on the grow! Just as a garden requires warm sunshine and rain to grow, local park properties and programs are now flourishing, thanks to a long-awaited flow of delayed funding.

For years, several set-aside properties have languished, waiting for funding in order to become accessible parks. These once-hidden natural gems are now coming into view for public exploration. (Did you know , for instance, that there is a Hopewell Indian Mound at Towner’s Woods? You would have learned about such existing features by participating in a recent hike there.)

After 23 years of failed levy attempts, Issue 10 finally passed in 2014, approving a 0.5 mill tax ($17.50 for a property with $100,000 market value). This funding is generating about $1.6 million annually over 10 years for the Portage Park District to operate and maintain parks and trails, conserve natural areas for water quality and wildlife, and open existing park lands.

As a result, this summer is bringing forth a flurry of new activity: two ribbon-cuttings for newly-opened parks, a full slate of new public programs, and a schedule of fun events. This month alone, there were two Portage Trail Walkers Hikes in Ravenna and Mantua, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Morgan Park in Shalersville Township, the Headwaters Adventure Race starting at Mantua Village Park for trails and watershed conservation, and a Portage Park District Info Session & Hike at the Portage County District Library.

More is on the way! Next month will see the opening of Shaw Woods, a National Public Lands Day observation, and the celebration of Towner’s Woods 40th Anniversary, as follows:

• August 14 – 2:00pm   Shaw Woods Ribbon Cutting to open a new park located at 7075 Beery Rd. in Ravenna Township. This 145-acre park features trails, wetlands, streams, and the West Branch of the Mahoning River. Stop by for the festivities and a tour of the park. Trails will be open for hiking  and equestrian use.

• September 24 –  National Public Lands Day to help the Portage Park District complete an outdoor cleanup or planting project. Contact 330-297-7728 or info@portageparkdistrict.org .

• October 8 – Towner’s Woods 40th Anniversary Celebration to celebrate the heritage of the system’s most popular park (2264 Ravenna Rd. Kent, OH 44240).

“Yes, lots going on!” said  Portage Park District Director Chris Craycroft. “We don’t have a timeline yet for the other properties, though we will likely open Breakneck Creek Preserve next year, and we have plans to resurface the Headwaters Trail with limestone next year as well. As we wrap up our Master Plan process, we’ll post the drafts on our website and put out a press release for public feedback; that should happen next month.”

Park representatives are also reaching out this summer and fall at community events, letting the public know what they can expect from and look forward to in regard to the county’s park system. Look for park personnel on August 6 and 7 at the Sweet Corn Festival at Beckwith Orchards in Franklin Township, then on September 17 at the Ravenna Balloon-A-Fair.

Meanwhile, people can get acquainted with hiking trails throughout the park system by participating in a Wild Hikes Challenge. Pick up a form from the park office (705 Oakwood Street, Suite G-4, Ravenna) with eight different hikes throughout the park system listed, ranging in distance from .75-2.9 miles.

Once you complete all eight hikes, return the form to the office. Then for a suggested donation of $10, you can have a hiking staff; for a suggested $5 donation, you can have a 25th anniversary medallion. An Accessible Hikes Challenge is all available for those using strollers, wheelchairs or other apparatus. You can contact the Portage Park District at 330-297-7728 or info@portageparkdistrict.org.