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Brooke Hills Park event offered family fun

PLASTIC PASSENGERS — Lifeguards at Brooke Hills Park were recruited to test the miniature vessels entered into the Duck Boat Challenge for their ability to hold multiple toy ducks during the park’s observance of National Kids Day Friday. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — It’s been a rollercoaster season for Brooke Hills Park, but it was smooth sailing at the park’s annual observance of National Kids Day, especially for those who entered the Duck Boat Challenge.

The contest challenged families to create small boats from assorted household items, from plastic bottles to styrofoam egg cartons. The makeshift watercraft were then placed in the park’s swimming pool and small plastic ducks added until the vessels sank under their weight.

The pool’s lifeguards were recruited to perform the weight test, counting the ducks as they did.

The contest’s winners were five-year-old Lamar Primis of Wintersville, whose entry held 95 ducks; five-year-old Eli Romine of Benwood, W.Va., with 64 on his boat; and nine-year-old Frankie Caruso of Wellsburg, whose craft held 64.

The three were invited to choose from an assortment of toys donated by the event’s sponsors.

Hundreds of other, numbered toy ducks were plucked from the pool to determine the winners of assorted other prizes, including an electronic, outdoor grill, television and golf and pool passes for the park.

A unique fundraising drawing for the park, the Duck Pluck has been part of Brooke Hills’ National Day festivities since it began observing the holiday 22 years ago.

National Kids Day was created by KidsPeace, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping children to avoid neglect, trauma and crises,to encourage families to spend more time together. It’s been endorsed by Congress and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The park also offered free admission to the pool, hot dogs, popcorn and snow cones, while disc jockey GCon provided music.

Janice McFadden, the park’s manager, expressed thanks to Britney Hervey Farris and Patty Lish for coordinating the event and to its sponsors, including state Del. Phil Diserio, D-Brooke; the Brooke County Fair and Brooke Hills Park boards; Family Roots Farm and the Foundery Church, formerly Brooke Hills Free Methodist Church.

McFadden said because many of the pool’s lifeguards will be returning to school, it will be open from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday only for the next three weeks before closing for the season.

But she noted visitors to the park will be able to purchase, for $10, wristbands that will gain them admission to the pool, paddle boat pond and miniature golf course on Saturday or Sunday.

A decline in available lifeguards at the end of the summer season is a common problem for area pools.

But the pool’s summer season also was cut short when leaks to its floor delayed its opening.

McFadden said a Columbus contractor addressed the problem by grinding the floor to its base and recoating it.

She said it still has some slick areas, which have been addressed temporarily by placing heavy mats at the pool’s bottom.

While the pool will be closing soon, the park’s other facilities remain open and it soon will be hosting the Brooke County Fair. McFadden noted the fair will be held later this year, on Sept. 16-18.

The park board also is looking to the future.

McFadden said volunteers led by board member Rob Morris plan to clear a long overgrown trail leading to a cross overlooking the park. Built before the Gist family donated its farm for the park’s creation, the lighted cross was refurbished in 2020 by volunteers Keith Smith, Bobby Haynes, Mike Smith and Joseph Aracich.

McFadden said there also are plans to construct a replica of a former toll house near the park’s front entrance, which was destroyed by high winds last July.

Renovated in recent years, the 180-year-old building once was home to a local official who collected tolls from many farmers and others who traveled a toll road between Washington, Pa. and Wellsburg.

Architect Michael Mills has been retained to create preliminary designs for the new building, which McFadden said may resemble the original toll house while including a rear addition to be occupied by new offices for her and her staff.

McFadden said she and the board have discussed establishing a visitors center, small museum and ice cream shop in the new building.

She said the park’s current offices in the clubhouse could be converted into a game room.

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