Mill Creek is more than a park; it’s a breath of fresh air


Youngstown and Mill Creek Park share a history in one area you might not think of – breathing lessons. Chris Davidson brings us the story.

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Some Youngstown old timers talk about when a doctor could look at a chest X-ray and know immediately if you grew up in Youngstown. That X-ray looked as though you smoked three-packs-a-day. (COUGH)

 If you have grown up in Youngstown you have to be of a certain age to remember when the air was quite filthy. I mean most of the mills that polluted the air were seen as a good thing. A dirty sky was seen as a sign of prosperity because it meant the mills were running.

That’s Rick Shale, local author and Mill Creek MetroParks volunteer. He’s talking about the late 18-to mid-19-hundreds, when the steel industry boomed. The city thrived, people had jobs, but some residents had trouble breathing.

One man thought he could solve that. Attorney Volney Rogers had a dream: that everyone in Youngstown could breathe fresh air. He wanted it not just for the wealthy – who could move away from the soot and smog – but everybody. That dream is one of the reasons he founded the park, in 1891.

Volney Rogers when he conceived the par,k it wasn’t simply to preserve a green space,  He was very interested in public health.

Hunter Morrison heads up the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium. He says parks played a vital role in our then-industrialized society.

Historically, parks were the lungs of the city. They were the natural places preserved when cities like Cleveland, New York, Boston, Youngstown were growing rapidly.

… With good reason …

Initially, these facilities were the living rooms of the city. When people didn’t have air conditioning, television, a lot of space, they didn’t have clean air, water these were the big recreational zones.

And to this day, Mill Creek Park has been living and breathing that public health mission.  Just ask Karres Cvetkovich, who teaches yoga at the Davis Center.

 In the summertime, we do the classes outside and there couldn’t be better air to breathe than the fresh air coming off the lake with a little breeze.

Cvetkovich admires the park’s founder.

 I think Volney Rogers wanted health for people. He wanted people to be able to appreciate the beauty of Mill Creek Park, the beauty of their surroundings…

Shale likens the park to an oasis.

It’s a way of escape I think. The air is fresher. Spring when the buds start to come out and the park starts to green up again,

It just makes you feel good.

(Cvetkovich leads a breathing exercise: And now take your awareness to the breath….through the nose …)

For, I’m Chris Davidson.