Efffort begins to renovate Ford Nature Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Mill Creek Park’s Ford Nature Center was someone’s house when it was built in 1912. 102 years later it need renovated. Efforts to get that done began Friday night.

The Ford Nature Center is a stately old house. Its stone structure a symbol of Youngstown wealth at the time it was built. But look closer and you’ll see the house needs renovated. The push to get the house fixed up began with a party on the grounds and inside the center.

It was one of the priorities for park director Dennis Miller when he took over two years ago.

“This facility anchors this part of the park, and it has direct contact with this neighborhood,” said Miller. “We knew for some time that it was in disrepair and we needed to update it.”

At Friday evening’s event, plans for the renovation were unveiled. It has four parts: Renovate the mansion itself, restore the carriage house currently being used for storage, and build an addition between them to serve as connector.

A tree walk will also be constructed behind the house to allow people to view the trees of the park from three different levels.

“This will be an experiential exhibit outdoors. Three different decks that will allow you to experience the three different sections of the forest: The canopy, the middle section and forest floor,” said architect Frank Rulli.

The house opened as the Ford Nature Center in 1972 as the headquarters for the Park’s nature education programs. There are school programs along with displays of plants of animals.

Naturalist Ray Novotny works out of the center.

“The building is 102 years old and is showing some signs of its age, and I think this is a great time to do something and bring it up to this century,” said Novotny.

It’ll take between $2 and $3 million to complete all the renovations. It’s hoped that enough money can be raised that construction can begin next summer.

The electrical system, plumbing, and HVAC units will all be redone. The carriage house will be renovated to accommodate field trips, and the entire building will be made handicap accessible.

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