Our Towns

Recreation Boosts Cortland

CORTLAND, Ohio — Bordering the west end of Main Street in downtown is Mosquito Lake, the second-largest lake in Ohio. The state park on the southwestern edge of the lake draws tourists to the towns along the shore during the vacation season from May through September.

And while the reservoir draws many, Cortland Mayor Curt Moll says that for a long time, the town didn’t take advantage.

“We don’t have a connection to the lake because it’s run by the Army Corps of Engineers and is mostly state park property,” he says. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a hotel, so people don’t stay here. They stay in Niles or the other nearby hotel areas or the state park.”

For the residents of Cortland, though, the lake is a recreation area they use often. And with the city adding a small park and build trails along the lakeshore, Cortland is better positioned to make greater and better use of the lake.

“We’ve been trying for years to develop the area along the lake, says Dennis Linville, a city councilman and former mayor. “There was an area just north of town where we put a little park in. We got a lot of assistance from the county. The idea was to put in hiking trails, a large parking lot and a sledding hill.”

Traci Cooper, co-owner of Cooper’s Cycle & Fitness, says she moved to Cortland specifically for the recreation the lake offers.

“I’ve lived in a lot of small towns and I’ve lived in a lot of big towns,” Cooper says. “Cortland is great because it has the lake. I go down there every morning with clients in the summer and it’s beautiful. This lake is alive, kicking and huge. For me, that’s a big deal.”

The recreational aspect of Cortland has always been there, says Linville, who grew up in Cortland. He reminisces about his childhood when he and his friends rode their bikes around the village and played pickup games of basketball and baseball.

“It was great. There were always groups of kids that would just get on their bikes and go,” he says. “There are always things to do. Baseball fields, basketball courts, even people’s yards that were big enough for us to play in.”

While Ken Zimmerman, president of the Cortland Lions Club didn’t grow up in the city – he moved from Warren 18 years ago – he says recreation is commonplace in the small city.

“I don’t know how many baseball fields there are. Or basketball courts or soccer fields. But there are a lot,” he says.

For people such as Moll and Linville, one of the biggest recreational offerings the city and surrounding areas have is golf. Three courses are in or near the city: Walnut Run, Tamer Win and White Fence.

“I call this area Golf Heaven. If you retire and want to play golf, this is where I’d suggest you do it if you aren’t into a full 12 months of golfing,” the mayor says. “I don’t play golf from mid-October through March or April, but the rest of the time, you can’t get better facilities for less money.”

Cortland boasts the one of the few pickleball courts in the Mahoning Valley, Moll says. A game similar to tennis with a mix of badminton and Ping Pong thrown in, it’s played with paddles and balls similar to wiffle balls. It’s popular among the retirees who live here, he says.

“There are tournaments here and our residents have gone to tournaments up near Cleveland. It’s a slower game of tennis on a smaller court. The guys who play might argue with the slower part, but it’s a big attraction,” the mayor says. “There was a lot of interest in tennis in my generation and I think that’s rolled over into pickleball, which is similar but a little easier to play.”

One of the more popular recreational attractions around town is the roller skating rink just south of downtown. Zimmerman notes that the rink, which features family days and adult-only days, caters to all ages.

“It’s a fun place to go. It’s reasonably priced and everyone has a good time meeting new people. People come from all over town to go there,” he says.

For some in Cortland, such as Just Pizzelles owner Christina Benton, the rink is a regular stop.

“That’s where we go most often. They’re like our second family,” she says. “Now with our little girl, who’s almost 2, we take her there.”

Benton admits that she and her family do little in the way of recreation or entertainment in Cortland. They mostly attend community events put on by the many community organizations in Cortland.

“We find stuff around here like the soap box derby and community events. That’s the kind of stuff we’re into,” she says, noting that one community event stands out.

“The Cortland Street Fair, as small as it is, is a huge draw. People come back just for that event,” Benton says.

The Lions Club takes the lead in putting on the fair every year downtown with help from other organizations and businesses.

“We have people from all over the community helping because it takes a lot of work to put something like that on for three days,” Zimmerman says. “It’s a place for families to go. Most of it’s kid stuff and fair food.”

Such events, while a small part of what Cortland offers, play a large role in the quality of life in and around the city, Cooper says.

“We have great community support. People from not just Cortland, but Howland and Johnston [Township] all come in and support us.”

Pictured: Jeff and Traci Cooper, owners of Cooper’s Cycle & Fitness, use Mosquito Lake as part of the fitness regimen they offer to customers when the weather permits.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.