Fellows Riverside Gardens Plans Major Makeover for Children’s Garden

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mill Creek MetroParks says a new, children-centered project at Fellows Riverside Gardens is the largest in more than 20 years for the Mahoning Valley landmark.

Costing $3 million, the two-phase project began with the construction of the Margaret Cushwa Education Building in 2020. The second phase is expected to begin in the spring of 2023 and will include the addition of a five-component garden concept and entry plaza.

A maintenance facility will be added in Phase Three.

This marks the largest development at Fellows since the opening of the D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center in 2000.

The significant improvements to the children’s gardens will allow for a reshaped, modernized experience for children as they explore and learn about nature, said Aaron Young, MetroParks executive director.

Construction of the 1.5-acre-garden at Fellows will include the transformation of a two-decades-old facility into a learning space for all park visitors. MetroParks’ staff will also lead horticulture and ecology education in the building upon completion.

Multiple gardens will be included to show children and visitors how each component works to create the ecosystem:

• Harvest Garden – children will learn about planting, maintaining and harvesting vegetables though hands-on activities in outdoor learning labs

• Forest Garden – learning labs will teach children how trees and forests absorb and store carbon dioxide

• Streams Garden – an interactive garden, children will learn how water sustains plants and animals

• Hummock and Lawn Garden – an area surrounded by unique hummock mounds will provide relaxation and play

• Sensory Garden – reflexology is explored through sight, smell, taste, sound and touch.

There will also be a Wonder Rooms Garden where children and visitors pass through a unique landscape with fun enclosures for children to explore.

Overall Concept Plan

The children’s garden will be funded by private donations through the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation, said Chris Litton, development director.

These latest improvements are a component of the larger, $20 million Love Mill Creek campaign – an ambitious effort to secure long-term improvements to the park system, he added. The MetroParks system will be provided with $10 million in capital improvement funding and the other half in endowment funds for long-term care of Mill Creek, Litton said.

This is the first year of the MetroParks’ second, five-year capital improvement plan, which proposes “significant investment in our existing infrastructure,” Young said.

“From improvements to our roads, bridges, parking lots and many miles of trails, to the full redevelopment of the Wick Recreation Warming House and even new park development at Springfield Forest, these improvements will have significant impact on MetroParks users’ experiences,” he said.
Interest and use of the park were heightened over the course of the pandemic, Young said, which “served as a reintroduction to the benefits of local MetroParks, and we are no exception.”

“Park use exploded during the pandemic and has really not declined since then,” Young added.

The Children’s Garden redevelopment project announcement comes two years after a multi-million-dollar renovation to the Ford Nature Center began.

Russell + Mills of Fort Collins, Colorado, was selected to design the new gardens.

Naming rights opportunities for the Children’s Garden are still available, including the garden itself and each of the five component gardens. Other opportunities for naming rights with Fellows and around the MetroParks are also available.

Donations to the Children’s Garden can be made to the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation by contacting Litton at (330) 718-2699.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.