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On the Trail

Stark Parks provides update on trail, greenway expansion

By DAVID HUTTON The Press-News Published: July 22, 2016 10:00 AM
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PIKE TWP.-- Stark County Park Director Bob Fonte updated area officials on the district's Trail & Greenway Master Plan during a recent Stark County Township Association meeting held at the Pike Grange.

Ultimately, the trail will link the first completed section of the Sandy Valley Trail - the Waynesburg Village Park Loop Trail / to sections that will take hikers north and south through East Canton and Louisville.

The Waynesburg Village Park Loop Trail is a short crushed limestone trail that loops around the park.

The second section is a .76 mile limestone trail from West Street to Greer Street in Waynesburg following an old railroad route. Parking is available on Maple Street,.

Fonte pointed out that the Sandy Valley Trail will eventually serve as a major southeast trail system connecting the communities of East Sparta, Magnolia, Waynesburg, Malvern and Minerva.

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According to the district, the Fry Family Park will serve as the major trailhead on the west end, the trail will head east along the Sandy Valley.

The 322-acre Fry Family Park was recently purchased by the Stark County Park District in the interest of outdoor recreation and to honor the service of the late Richard Fry, the Park District's first director, and his family.

Fry donated 25 percent of the value of the property toward the purchase.

The Fry Family Park, which is located in Pike Township, features rolling hills, hardwood forests, a pond, wetlands, and a riparian corridor. There is also a main residence and barn still located on the site.

A master plan was created for the park five years ago that calls for the conversion of the residence into a nature education center, and other features such as: a winter sports center, 4-acre fishing//canoeing pond, park shelters, and hiking and biking trails. The majority of the park will be devoted to retaining and//or restoring some of its natural features, including forest lands, wetlands and meadows.

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Via trials, this will connect to the historic Magnolia Flouring Mills in downtown Magnolia, showcasing the area's natural beauty.

The historic mill in Magnolia was purchased by the Park District in October, 2005. It includes water rights to the Sandy & Beaver Canal dam No. 6 behind the mill, and the guard lock at the connection between the Sandy & Beaver Canal and Sandy Creek and consists of approximately 13 acres.

Fonte also acknowledged that there currently are few trail and other options in the southeastern area of Stark County.

"This part of the county has been underserved," he said.

Fonte said park district officials have been working with Carroll County officials to complete the trail connection from Waynesburg to Minerva.

There also are plans to eventually connect the trail from Louisville to Minerva.

"We don't own that stretch," Fonte said. "It is dependent upon our ability to work with property owners to secure the land."

Fonte added that the district can be flexible in its routes.

"We live with what the conditions are," he said.

One property owner in Osnaburg Township told Fonte some property owners use the abandoned rail beds to move cattle and machinery across their properties.

Many property owners have trouble protecting their land from trespassers and believe a trail would only worsen the problem.

"We do not want to force the route where landowners don't want it," he added.

Fonte also alleviated any fears, noting that the district will not take anyone's property through eminent domain. He also noted that the district takes security seriously and its rangers patrol trails regularly.

The park district also has policing agreements with every jurisdiction in Stark County, helping to ensure safety and security along the trails.

"We want our customers to be secure," he said. "We want to be good neighbors."

Fonte also noted that the park district can be creative to work with a property owner's needs.

"We don't want to force a trail on a property that is not willing to participate," he explained, adding that the trials have had positive economic impact on the areas where they have been completed.

"The trails help make a healthier, more vibrant community," he said. "They are attractive amenities to help communities attract new residential and business development."

Ultimately, Fonte noted that the goal of the master plan is to "aid the park district in completing development in a manner that will maximize public use and support, and plan in a manner that produces a quality park system that can be sustained over time."

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