Mill Creek appeals ruling over property rights that could halt bike trail

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Lawyers for Mill Creek MetroParks say their appeal to the state Supreme Court of a 7th District Court Of Appeals decision banning them from acquiring a piece of property for a proposed bike trail in Green Township will be felt across Ohio.

The park is appealing an April decision by the 7th District Court Of Appeals that ruled in favor of the property that the park is trying to take through the eminent domain process.

The appeals court reversed a ruling from the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas and said that Mill Creek failed to have a statutorily authorized reason or purpose for the appropriation by eminent domain and that Diane Less, the property owner, followed procedure when pleading her case.

The $6 million bike trail expansion includes lengthening it by six miles along an abandoned railroad line and linking it with the Greenway Trail in Columbiana County.

Less wants the bike trail moved to have it run along Washingtonville Road, just east of where it is planned. The park says costs for construction on Washingtonville Road would be too high.

In their appeal to the supreme court, the park’s lawyers claimed that Ohio law says that case law shows the park district’s “ability to possess land is conditioned on the park district using the land for an
appropriate governmental purpose.” A bike trail, the lawyers for the park said, is a legitimate purpose.

The park also claimed there is no evidence the park did not have authorization to acquire the property.

How the court rules in this case could affect the way park boards across Ohio can obtain property to use for public projects, the park’s lawyers wrote.

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