State Representative Don Manning will introduce legislation that will outlaw taking of property by eminent domain for a bike trail submitted by Mill Creek MetroParks. 

Diane Less, who owns Paul Less Farm in Green Township, pointed to her farm and explained to State Representative Manning that she would be cut off from her horse trail at her farm and a family cemetery if the bike trail by Mill Creek goes in as planned.

"My dad bought the farm in 1920. Next year it will be 100 years. It's not fair someone can take property you make your livelihood on and take it, so somebody can ride a bike on it. Mill Creek MetroParks is using everyone's tax dollars to put a bike trail through my property and ruin other farms in Green Township. I and other property owners must still pay taxes on it and deal with the potential lawsuits and the trouble it may bring," said Less. "When a bike trail is put in, everybody else now has a thoroughfare through your property, and they can use it anytime they want to. It is not protected; it is not fenced off; it is not closed at night."

Another property owner told 21 News that the bike trail would cut off the source of water for their cows and bulls and therefore cut off their income. 

Representative Manning is sponsoring legislation that would help protect property owners.

"I was told one of the farmers asked if he took his farm equipment over the bike trail to get to the other side of his land to farm, who would be responsible for paying for the damage. The response was that he would be responsible for paying for repairs. This is not right. When the farmers don't want the bike trail on their land, to begin with," said Rep. Manning.

He will be dropping legislation June 17.

"What it will do is outlaw the taking of property by eminent domain for a bike trail. This will cut into their ability to make a living," said Rep. Manning. "There are some uses for public safety such as railways and public waterways that make sense if there is a real need for the community. I don't think a bike trail rises to the level of a public safety need. If they think they are going to come into the 59th district and steal the land from my constituents without a fight, they have another thing coming.

Manning said he is not against bike trails, but he is against cutting off access to horse trails and family farmland.

"For people who live in Boardman, Poland or Canfield, if we allow this land grab to go on over and over again unchecked, it can happen anywhere," said Manning.

"There is another viable option that has been used for around the last 20 years. Bike riders have been using Washingtonville Road, and it is beautiful. It links up with the trail at Western Reserve Road. A bikeway already exists without the unlawful taking of property by eminent domain. This would not end someone's ability to make a living. It would not be 40 feet from a teen's bedroom," said Less.

21 News reached out to Mill Creek MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young.

"MetroParks, throughout the process of phase three of the bikeway, made numerous attempts contacting each individual owner of the parcels required to complete phase three," said Young. "The majority of owners rebuffed that opportunity for input. We are pursuing mediation as a last option. The planning process was completed years ago prior to my employment here. This has been going on for nearly a decade. There has been a lot of work done."

21 News told Young a lawsuit states that the notice sent to property owners omitted the option that landowners had a right to appeal to the elected official who appoints the pubic agency making the request for eminent domain, and the letter of "Intent to Take Property" only included the option to appeal to the director of the park organization.

21 News asked if this were true and Young said he could not comment on pending litigation.

There are 14 lawsuits filed against Mill Creek MetroParks regarding this issue.