Boardman Park observed its 75th anniversary on Sat., Aug. 27 with a host of activities where more than 10,000 people flocked to Boardman Township’s ‘green oasis’ of more than 200 acres.
Among the most unique features at Boardman Park is its executive director, Dan Slagle Jr., who tenure has stretched over four decades in serving as director of the park’s operations, and indeed, Boardman Park has prospered under his leadership Slagle, 71, has spent his entire life working at Boardman Park, some 50 years. He was first hired under Supt. Ivor Jenkins, and when John Holzbach retired in 1992, Slagle became superintendent, pledging to improve programming and open-up the park to more people.
Today, more than 500,000 people go to Boardman Park every year—wether just to enjoy the solitude and green spaces, for weddings and class reunions, the Oktoberfest, annual Community Christmas and Holiday Light Display, summer concerts or annual Fourth of July events. “Remember, the park has only been able to grow because the community supports us, including the many donors who have helped us grow. It is truly special,” Slagle says. Boardman Park is still funded by a 1-mil levy, the same millage that created the park in 1948.
“Of all the things I am most proud of, we have been able to build the park into what it is today on virtually the same funding we had when the park was created,” Slagle observed this week. He noted all the improvements could not have been made without strong community involvement. There were the hundreds of people who joined as volunteers to build Kids Town; the Tony Lariccia family provided major funding to build a grand community center. “There are so many people who have helped create the park,” Slagle said, mentioning William F. Maag, Martha Roepke, Tom Masters Sr., C.R. Smith Jr. and Joseph Sylvester Sr. and the Boardman Rotary Club as among the many who have provided support over the years.
Slagle recalled the development of the Maag Outdoor Arts Theater with some amazement. “One day a community resident, Martha Roepke, walked into my office and said she wanted to do something in honor of William F. Maag (who donated the original acreage to form the park),” Slagle said. She provided the major funding to build the theater and Jose Sylvester Sr. donated much of the labor. “We were still short of funds and I began researching potential donors. One day, I called Clarence Smith, whom I had never met before, and told him of the situation. “Right on the spot he pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check that covered the final construction costs. “I love Boardman Park. The rewards I have received serving the community and developing the park district have filled my lifetime,” Slagle observed.
Slagle is a life-long resident of Boardman Township, and a 1969 graduate of Boardman High School. Upon graduation, he worked at the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. as a loader in the Butt Weld Shipping Department, which for a young suburbanite was a very enlightening experience.
While working at Youngstown Sheet & Tube, he enrolled at Youngstown State University, pursuing a degree in Biology/Pre-Forestry. In 1972, he started his career at Boardman Township Park as a groundskeeper. While working at the park, he earned an associate’s degree in Natural Science from YSU and continued his academic career at YSU, earning a bachelor of science degree in Combined Science. Slagle was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Boardman Park in 1988, with the primary responsibility of planning and overseeing the maintenance of the grounds and facilities. During his tenure as assistant superintendent he developed an extensive grounds maintenance and landscape programs, which included a comprehensive display of annual and perennial flowers, and a long-term tree planting and maintenance program, with emphasis on the preservation and re-establishment of native hardwoods. The realization of these programs has resulted in a widely acclaimed recognition as a Park that is beautifully landscaped and as the “Green Oasis” of the community.
The Board of Park Commissioners appointed Slagle as the Superintendent/Clerk in June, 1992. His first project was to research and develop the first-ever master plan for the Park District. In the more than four decades since, more than 20 major improvements have evolved from the master plan, with a value of over $6.5 million.
“The primary funding, 80 per cent, for these improvements has been donations of volunteer time, materials, and money, coupled with government grants,” Slagle notes.
In 2000, Boardman Park was selected as the host site from a four-county area by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Office of Governor, when then Gov. Robert Taft awarded $560,000 in NatureWorks and Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to 13 public entities, with Boardman Park receiving a lions share of $131,122, for its West Quadrant Improvement project.
Gov. Taft in his presentation remarked “Boardman Park is one of the finest small parks in the state.” That same year, Slagle was awarded the Boardman Civic Association’s Community Service Award. In 2014, Slagle was honored by The Ohio Parks & Recreation Association’s with its Harvey Woods Lifetime Achievement Award. Boardman Park’s executive director is a member of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association and the National Recreation and Park Association. His civic involvement includes-Past President of the Boardman Civic Association, member of the Boardman Rotary Club, past president of the Kiwanis Club of Uptown Youngstown; a co-chair of the Boardman Township Bicentennial Committee; past vestry member and chairman of the properties committee, St. John’s Episcopal Church; past president and life member Men’s Garden Club of Youngstown; Mahoning Valley Landscaping and Nursery Association.
In July, 1987, appropriately, he married his wife, the former Marilou Bonte, during ceremoies held in Olde St. James Meeting House in the park. They have two sons, Daniel, III (Dewey), and Tom. Boardman Park Under Slagle
- Master Plan – Initiated, researched, designed, drafted, and successfully implemented the 1992 Master Plan for the park and the community it serves, which resulted in approximately $6.5 million in capital improvements, with the majority of the funds (approximately 80%) necessary for its success generated by the following revenue streams: local, state and federal grants; donations and sponsorships from individuals, businesses, and foundations; and the balance (approximately 20%) from the park’s capital budget. The completion of the Master Plan fostered the following recreational assets for the community:
- Kids’ Town Creative Playground, Robert Leathers Community Built Concept constructed by more than 3000 volunteers.•Tot’s Town Playground, community built, initiated by local Realtor, John Burgan.•Maag Outdoor Arts Theatre.•Elton Beard Family Cabin, funded by an ODNR Nature Works Grant. Major contributor, Elton and Christina Beard.
- Kenneth Hofmaster Pavilion, community built concept.
- Hike & Bike Trail.
- Main Septic system that eliminated an antiquated on-site Leech Bed system and the connection to a public sanitary system at the Shops at Boardman Park. Major contributors, David Handel and Chuck Bishara.
- West Quadrant Improvements Project that included the Thomas C. Masters Pavilion w/restrooms, a 300-car lighted parking lot, and landscaping funded by a LWCF grant.
- Two sand volleyball courts.
- Practice tennis wall.
- Acquisition of 35 acres of greenspace that increased the size of Boardman Park to 227 acres, with 40 acres of Open Space property located in seven areas of Boardman Township.
- Renovation of Kids’ Town Playground with plastic lumber made from recycled materials, funded by a Green Team recycling grant.
- Exterior renovation of St. James Meeting House.
- Veterans Memorial project developed in conjunction with Boardman Trustee Elaine Mancini.
- Historical Village Septic System that eliminated an on-site leech bed/holding tank system and the connection to a public sanitary system at the Shops at Boardman Park.
- West Quadrant Phase II, including the Lariccia Family Bocce Pavilion, ADA accessible playground and the asphalt paving of the 300-car parking lot, funded by an ODNR NatureWorks Grant and ODNR Scrap Tire Grant for Paving of Parking Lot. Major contributor, Anthony Lariccia.
- The Lariccia Family Community Center Phase I, the renovation and expansion of the 33-year old Community Center. Major contributors, Anthony Lariccia, Boardman Rotary Club, Kennedy Family Trust/SJK Trust, Helen Stambaugh.
- Exterior renovation of the Oswald Detchon House, a local historic landmark.
- North Trail project, an 8-foot wide paved ADA accessible walkway that travels parallel to the main drive in the park and connects all park facilities, as well as connecting to existing nature trail system, four miles of trails, funded by an ODNR Recreational Trail Grant
- Renovation and expansion of the Georgeanna Parker Activity Center.
- Marge Hartman’s Paws Town at Boardman Park, developed in conjunction with a non-profit committee, Friend of Paws Town, Inc., organized by Boardman Township Administrator Jason Loree and his wife, Abbey that led to the development of a 3.25-acre dog park, designed for dogs to exercise and play off-leash in a controlled environment under the supervision of their owners
- Departmentalized maintenance operations, delineating daily duties and responsibilities; which resulted in more efficient and effective operations.
- Web site and online reservations.
- Military concerts and fireworks. Upon the completion of the Maag Outdoor Arts Theatre, initiated and established the annual Military Band Concerts and fireworks displays. He encouraged and eventually convinced the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers Chorus to perform at the park for the first time in 1996, and nurtured the relationship over the years to where the park is now part of their Summer schedule. Additionally, Slagle developed a relationship with the B.J. Alan Fireworks Co., headed by Boardman native Bruce Zoldan, where they are now one of the park’s annual sponsors.
- Haunted Hay Rides and Family Night events.
- Pepsi Vending and Donations. Under Slagle, Boardman Park initiated and implemented the placement of Pepsi vending machines within the park as a new revenue stream. As part of the Vending Machine agreement, Pepsi donated to Capital Projects (Maag Theatre, $6,000) and Kids’ Town awnings ($3,000) and a $1,000 annual sponsorship.
“Most importantly, Boardman Park is about our community,” Slagle said this week. All of the improvements during his lengthy tenure have been the result of community involvement and gives the park a unique niche, where volunteerism and donations have played such a key role in the development of Boardman Park.
PHOTO: BOARDMAN PARK’S Executive Director, Dan Slagle Jr., pictured, has worked his entire adult life at the Green Oasis.
This article was republished with permission from the Boardman News.