Commissioners plan 'rolling dedication" of Mingo Park's new features

Barbara Miller

There’s a saying that “everything old is new again.”

At Mingo Creek County Park, a stone house that has stood on a hillside above the meandering stream for about two centuries has been refurbished and is available for little public gatherings.

And a log house that was built outside the park for the same amount of time has found a new home there, repurposed for use by smallish groups even before the phrase “social distancing” became part of the vocabulary.

If the weather cooperates, Mingo Creek County Park will have its day in the sun Wednesday when the county commissioners showcase its latest improvements and the aforementioned historic features, totaling about $1.4 million, all paid from proceeds of the county’s natural gas lease at Mingo with Range Resources.

Scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on July 15, the dedication ceremony will open at the spacious Shelter No. 10, a timber and stone edifice finished last year that looms halfway up Observatory Hill.

Jeffrey Associates constructed the shelter for $172,127 plus an additional $61,034 for its adjacent play equipment. Metzinger and Morgan Excavating had contracts, respectively, with the county for concrete pads and walkways there and in Ten Mile Creek County Park, and $248,074 for paving at Shelter No. 10, the log house, bike path extension, and fairgrounds. The total cost of Shelter No. 10 was pegged at about $573,000.

In the vicinity are the Sumney log home and the Henry House, a name with which park-goers may be familiar because of the Henry Covered Bridge.

The Sumney log home began its tenure about 203 years ago along Sugar Run Road, but Mr. and Mrs. Philip Long donated it to the county in 2018.

The Sumney family, with a Revolutionary War soldier as a patriarch, farmed and operated a pottery. When owned by the Long family, it served as a rustic backdrop for tea drinkers and history buffs.

Jeff Pleta of East Washington tackled the task of taking it apart log by log, to be stored and reassembled near the primitive tent camping area used by Scout and organized groups. Eagle Scout Kelly McChesney of Scenery Hill tagged each log and recorded its position so it could be put back together correctly.

The county donated $10,000 toward Pleta’s preparation for the move, and spent another $88,400 on his firm’s role in the reconstruction. Park staff transported the components, and concrete for the sidewalk, footer and foundation was also done in-house.

The stone Henry House, which pre-dates the park, stands at its original location. It will also be part of what has been dubbed a “rolling dedication” ceremony.

W.A. Henry lived there until he died in 1960, and, in a 2018 interview, his son and daughter, Clyde Henry and Ann Henry Ballein, said they were pleased the house, which sat vacant for years and was abused by vandals, was being rehabilitated.

Stiffler McGraw architects of Indiana County designed the plans, and general contractor Jld Contracting handled the general construction, Shiloh Industrial did the electrical work and county workers built the deck and fire ring for a total of $242,630.

The park also has recreational amenities to offer. A nine-“hole” disc golf course cost $4,690, and the county spent about $2,000 on miscellaneous materials and tent shelters for the Scout camping area.

These will also be part of the dedication, which will then move westward and end at the Shelter No. 1 “inclusive” playground.

The playground is designed to be accessible to people in wheelchairs and with a feature for the autistic, too.

“It’s something we need, and I think it will be well-received,” said Lisa Cessna, executive director of the Washington County Planning Commission, which oversees parks, when discussing plans for the playground last fall.

The playground equipment and rubber surface installed by Jeffrey Associates cost $333,687 was purchased through a state contract.

The centerpiece replica pirate ship and crocodile are surrounded by blue rubber to mimic a placid sea. Morgan Excavating paved the parking lot and sidewalks and patched other parts of park roads for $105,000. CXT provided the new restroom at a cost of $44,414, and in-house construction worked with $1,000 worth of materials.

While not exclusively for those with disabilities, the play area will have ramps instead of stairs.

“This is designed for people of all abilities, not just disabilities,” Cessna said, a feature that’s not part of playground equipment manufactured many years ago.

There will also be a refuge – known as a “Cozy Cocoon” – for those with autism spectrum disorder who may prefer to escape the hubbub of a busy playground.

“I’m very grateful Washington County has the necessary financing from (natural) gas proceeds to again invest in improvements in our park,” Commission Chairman Diana Irey Vaughan wrote in response to an email inquiry.

“Providing a playground experience to children with special needs is a great use of our funds. With every improvement we make we expand opportunities for citizens of all ages and abilities to enjoy our parks. Our goal is something for everyone.”