Last weekend, members of Mahoning County 4-H spent a day cleaning the stables and grounds at Southern Park Stables. The stables were recently donated to Boardman Park, and through a partnership with Mahoning County 4-H, they will again be used for the purpose intended.
Southern Park Stables, at 126 Washington Blvd., was the private training stable of attorney David Arrel and was built 1912 to house his standard bred horses racing at Southern Park Trotting Track one block to the south. The stable is the last remaining structure of a large complex known as Southern Park, which included not only the race track and accompanying stables, grandstand, and outbuildings, but a dance hall, picnic pavilions, and baseball diamonds.
According to Boardman Park Director Dan Slagle, the park was a favorite destination for Youngstown city residents wishing to relax in the country, and many company picnics were held here. The wrought iron gates at the driveway entrance were originally the main entrance gates for the racetrack.
Janie S. Jenkins, 90, was a renowned reporter and feature writer for a local newspaper for 43 years until her retirement in 1987. She was also a popular columnist since then for Farm & Dairy News. An accomplished equestrienne since childhood, Janie continued to ride into her late 80s and always kept horses at her home, Southern Park Stables, where she had lived since 1946.
Slagle said the property is on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2003 received an Ohio Historical Marker. In 1993, Jenkins deeded the historic property to Boardman Township Park District with a life estate for her and restrictions for forever preserving the building and leaving the 8.3 acres in natural state. In 1999, she received the Award of Merit for Historic Preservation from the Ohio Historical Society and in 2005 the Mahoning Valley Historical Society presented her with the Award of Achievement for historic preservation. Jenkins passed away in April 2012 and will be long remembered for her wit and love of animals.
"Understanding Janie's deep appreciation for animals and the natural world, we believe she would be very pleased with the partnership between Boardman Park and the Mahoning County 4-H, and especially, with the planned programs and events that will further the education and appreciation of animals and the environment," Slagle said.
The new partnership with 4-H will open the stables to a variety of activities including educational clinics with animals, horse projects and clinics, 4-H horse camps, and leadership events. It will also allow for a community garden, which will allow Boardman residents to grow their own food.
Mahoning County 4-H educator and Director Janice Hanna said, "It gives us a place for anyone in 4-H to hold meetings or do training with animals."
She said the meeting room at the stables will allow for 4-H book work to be done, followed by actual hands-on work with an animal project. She did say no animals will be housed there, but would only be brought in for the day or for a teaching session.
Hanna said she is already working on holding an annual day camp for the 4-H Cloverbuds, which are young 4-H members between five and eight years old.
On Sunday, Hanna brought a small army of 4-H volunteers to the stables to clean and prepare it for painting. One thing the stables have is artwork of horses' heads with names that were from the original stables.
"We will be preserving the artwork and painting around it," Hanna said.
She said the stables will be used frequently, and the concept of the community garden will be revealed on June 1 during Boardman's Community Day. Hanna plans to hold an open house at the stables to showcase the future of 4-H at the facility. She said the community gardens will also be a focal point during the open house.
"People can come in and sign up that day for a plot in the community gardens," Hanna said. "The nice thing about the partnership is it brings in OSU Extension with its resources for gardeners."
As for the future, Hanna said it would be nice to have a horse ring where 4-H kids could practice their skills. She said the stables could then host horse shows.