Monday, October 19, 2009

Yellow Creek Park: A Hidden Gem

Struthers, Ohio contains a Gem that most people outside of Struthers aren't even aware exists, unless they're History Buffs of Ohio and the region. It's Yellow Creek Park. Yellow Creek run from Hamilton Lake to The Mahoning River within the Struthers city limits. Total length is only about two miles and some parts are less than a city block wide.

The First Blast Furnace, West of The Allegheny Mountains, The Hopewell Furnace, was started along the banks of Yellow Creek. Enough of my history lesson. we'll leave that for the experts. I'm going to relate some of my experiences of Yellow Creek, growing up near there in the 60's and 70's. I spent many hours there and "communed with nature" on a regular basis with a lot of my buddies.

In the Winter, Ice Skating was a frequent activity, weather permitting. The creek was enlarged to about the size of a football field and had a small Spillway about four feet high. This was at the playground and pavilion area near downtown. Burn Barrels provided some heat once we became sufficiently frozen and I recall the steam rolling off my soaked pants if I got to close to the fire. We played Crack The whip and did our own version of Barrel Jumping, often using kids in place of barrels.

Steep hills led down to Yellow Creek Park which sat in a valley. We would take buckets of water and pour them out on a selected path that went down to the skating area. In a matter of hours, we would have a "Suicide Hill" that the crazier members of our group would attempt to skate down. I don't remember anyone making it all the way down, but I do recall several bump and bruises and broken arms. For more adventure, some of us would skate on the creek all the way out to Hamilton Lake. Occasionally, somebody would break through thin ice and plunge into the water. The water wasn't deep enough for you to drown in, but a cold dip sent you running for the comforts of a Burn Barrel to warm up and dry off. You didn't dare go home all wet, knowing that your folks would bar you from Ice Skating again.

After Winter released it's grip on Northern Ohio, exploring the rest of the park was in order. We caught Crayfish by the bucketful and often got a nasty pinch from them if we didn't avoid their surprisingly strong claws. a prank we pulled on each other was to sneak up behind someone and let the Crayfish grab them on the Butt or the Earlobe. Yikes! Of course, you'd let the Crayfish go and watch your Buddy scamper about trying to shake it off of him. Great Fun at their expense!

Africa Rock was another landmark in the park. Shaped like, you guessed it, Africa, this huge, flat rock was at the bottom of a cliff face on the Nebo side of the park. Nebo was the east side of Struthers. A few boys with far more guts than brains, jumped off of this cliff while holding an umbrella! I witnessed one of these idiots attempting this stunt and he made it to about ten feet from the ground before the umbrella collapsed! He escaped with a few bruises and "The Big Stones" Award from us!

Off of Wetmore Drive on The Upper Trail was a Waterfall. The water came out of the middle of a small rock formation about eight feet higher than the trail. The flow was about that of a garden hose, but on a hot Summer day, we welcomed a drink and the cold water bath we would splash on ourselves. We never did determined if the water came from a natural spring or was run-off from somewhere else. I guess we chose not to think about it.

The Ecology Class at the high school labeled all the Flora and Fauna in the park in the 70's. They marked a trail going all the way to where The Hopewell Furnace stood. nothing much remains there now, vandalism and the erosion of time taking their toll.

Eventually, Yellow Creek Park became part of The Mill Creek Park System of Mahoning County. Struthers could no longer afford to maintain the park and this was a good alternative to preserve what little nature there was locally. The closing of the Steel Mills had a direct impact on everything in The Youngstown area. So much we took for granted in our youth, we realize now was a privilege we had of a bustling economy at the time.

1 comment:

  1. another good one! dead man's cave! skated many a mile down at the yellow creek "pond"....swam many a lap at the ole swimming pool at the bottom of wetmore hill too! we all knew/know that yellow creek gully like that backs of our hands...

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