LEETONIA, Ohio (WKBN) – The Cherry Valley Coke Oven Park is now closed after Leetonia Village Council voted to close the park at a council meeting Wednesday night.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has diverted the water draining from the nearby coal mine, but that means there is no fresh water running in to the trenches. That means water collected in the 10-foot deep trenches in the center of the park has started to go down, and the receding water has made the trenches unsafe.
Cherry Valley Coke Oven Park includes a very important part of Youngstown history. It was one of the first steps in the process in steel making before the Great Depression.
The water does not look very deep, but this was the central channel that transported coal and coke throughout the entire complex. Over the past 80 years, it has become a hazard.
“With the water going down in the channels now it’s more a concern for safety, especially for small children and for adults. If they were to get into the channels, it is like quicksand. And we’re just concerned they might not get back out,” Leetonia Village Administrator Gary Phillips said.
Coke Oven Commission Chairman Bill Merdich said because the ovens have not been used for a long time, nature is taking over.
“Our project has been to try and preserve the ovens by dealing with the water situation and the tree situation,” Merdich said.
Village officials are looking at two plans: To either dredge the channels or fill them in.
“What I would prefer to do is get it set up, bring those channels about 12 to 18 inches from the top, fill them in with gravel base and then put some tracks and the original cars that were there on display,” Phillips said.
The mayor said he is hoping to get state grants to help with the project because the village does not have enough money in the budget to cover the cost.
For a more detailed history of the Coke Ovens, click here.