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Beatty Park coming alive this spring

VOLUNTEERS — Some core volunteers shown at Beatty Park before a fall hike there are, from left, Linda Hilty, Scott Wells, Bob Young, Buddy Merrin and Ed Rollandini. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — Beatty Park in Steubenville’s South End is coming alive this spring in more ways than one, and that makes Flora VerStraten-Merrin a happy person.

“With the events we have planned, we hope that we will continue to get repeat visitors as well as newbies to Beatty,” commented VerStraten-Merrin, organizer of the Friends of Beatty Park Revitalization group.

“Each time I am in the park, I see people hiking and I often — most of the time — ask them if they have ever been there before. Nine times out of 10, they say that it is their first time visiting. That amazes me,” she said.

The 2021 calendar of events at Beatty Park — all of them free and welcoming children — includes a spring flower hike set for noon on March 20, the first day of spring, and a spring wildflower walk on April 17, beginning at 10 a.m.

Also on the calendar are: May 29, 11 a.m., picnic and fundraiser/auction, registration required; July 17, 10 a.m., Creekbed hike (children invited), “Summer Wildflowers,” identify; Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m., Steubenville High School band concert; Sept. 25, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., historical walking tours; October – Parks and Rec “treat or trick in the park,” date to be announced; and Dec. 18, noon, “Holidays Hikes and More!”

“Our 2021 calendar includes walks, hikes, a picnic, a concert and historical events,” she said, noting the walks and hikes include learning about and identifying spring and summer wildflowers. “Our creek bed hike in the summer is to appeal to the children who enjoy the creek. The creek has a rock bed and is especially beautiful. We will discuss what lives in the creek, flooding, erosion, natural springs, mosses and many other topics interesting to children. We offer walks in the park because many people can’t hike the steeper trails and many of the trails have historic stone staircases. The walks are shorter and less intense, with restroom breaks and sometimes even snacks as well. We want our activities to vary in interests and physical activity that will invite anyone of any age into the park to enjoy it,” she added, describing the hikes as “heart pumping and interesting. They will include a 430-million-old tree fossil and a secret stone staircase, and we could end up at an historic old stone lodge or even the cemetery, with stops along the creek for some interesting views and observations of wildflowers, rock formations and historical information.”

The park has been the site of ongoing work and improvements.

“All of the projects, we as volunteers have completed, have been hard work,” VerStraten-Merrin commented. “There isn’t an easy job to be done in the park, and we just keep plugging along until we get a job/goal completed, and then we move on to the next. We are working at the original (old) pool area and plan to take down the old fencing and completely clean up the bleachers behind the old pool. We are working very closely with the Parks and Recreation Director, Lori Fetherolf, the Parks Board and also City Manager Jim Mavromatis. Having a good working relationship has helped us to get projects approved and to move along with them. We don’t do anything in the park without approval,” she noted, adding that there are many volunteers to whom she extends “big kuddos.”

“Everyone is appreciated and needed,” she said.

But volunteers can only do so much.

“We as volunteers know that elbow grease can only go so far. At some point we get to projects that require funding — always, even in a natural park,” she said.

“I applied and received a local grant for almost $20,000. We plan to begin work in the spring with the money from that grant for improvements on the Orange trail. The parks and rec board also has received grant money for benches and picnic tables along the same trail. It also applied for a larger 50/50 government grant, and they will know if that is received sometime this spring,” she continued. “We will continue to seek out funding, along with the parks department, for large projects. I will seek out local funding and grants and donations as a way to keep the money and interest locally. Some of the larger costly projects in our volunteer five-year plan will need to be planned and discussed and approved by the parks (and rec board)and we announce them as we move forward in a team effort with the city to improve, restore and preserve Beatty Park for future generations to enjoy,” she added.

All work dates, events and varied information are posted on the “Friends of Beatty Park.”

Meanwhile, VerStraten-Merrin is continuing work on her Book – “The History of Beatty Park, 1797-1998.”

“I am looking for anyone who has any historical information or photos or stories/memories of Beatty Park from 1797 to 1998,” she said, noting she is devoting a chapter memories. “Some South-Enders have come forward, and I am so thankful for their contributions.”

Inquiries can be directed to her at fvermerrin1@frontier.com or on the Friends of Beatty Park Facebook group.

Seeing improvements and use of the park means a lot to VerStraten-Merrin.

“When I am hiking on a trail, and I see others hiking or when I sit up on the hill taking a break and I hear children playing or laughing on the playground or I hear a couple walking up through a trial saying how beautiful the area is, or I see people taking photos for graduations, weddings, or just because they love nature — that is my reward, honestly that brings more joy then anything could possible bring to us as volunteers,” she noted.

“The best compliment to us, to the city, or the community is to come to Beatty Park and enjoy it.”

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