Last updated: August 05. 2014 8:40PM - 399 Views
By Evelyn Long Correspondent

Officers for Friends of the Mt. Gilead State Park are, from left: John Harbaugh, past president; Janet Harbaugh, past secretary; Susie Sexton (rear), secretary; Linda Harper, president; and John Oyster (rear), past and present treasurer.
Officers for Friends of the Mt. Gilead State Park are, from left: John Harbaugh, past president; Janet Harbaugh, past secretary; Susie Sexton (rear), secretary; Linda Harper, president; and John Oyster (rear), past and present treasurer.
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“Friends of the Park” is a hidden jewel supporting the Mt. Gilead State Park and the organization’s goals, which are to fund improvements and new additions to the park, making it an attractive and inviting site for the public.

The organization recently held its annual meeting at the State Park when new officers were elected. They include Linda Harper, president; Mike Porter, vice president; John Oyster, treasurer and Susan Sexton, secretary. Trustees are Marilyn Weiler, Jennifer Walters, Dorothy Clark, James Anderson, Larry Swackhammer, Lynn Swackhammer and Jim Sexton, trustee-at-large. John and Janet Harbaugh were named trustees emeritus in honor of their long service to the organization.

Harper said the purpose of the FOP is to promote and enhance the Mount Gilead State Park facilities and programs and to provide services to the community offering opportunities for the public to discover the natural and cultural beauty of the area. It also acts as a base of support by assisting the park staff, raising funds, accepting donations and acting as a link between the park and the surrounding community.

During the first meeting of the trustees for the 2014-15 year held at the Edison Depot, priorities were outlined for the coming year. The first nine hole Disc Golf Course was installed by FOP in 2010.

“There are several needed amenities needed for the course to be successful,” said Harper. “We need steps, benches, trash cans and information and direction signs. Also, on our wish list are several sets of rental discs for those who cannot afford to buy discs to play.” Disc Golf is a rage that’s coming on fast as there are over 3000 courses around the world and over 1200 in the U S. It’s a great family game for all stages of life.”

There are two other projects on the agenda and they include the leveling and re-graveling of all 61` campsites, purchase of another camper cabin, then move all three cabins to sites 5, 6, and 7. This move will open up prime camping sites in the cul-de-sac area.

Harper said, “The Mount Gilead State Park is our passion. It’s a safe and ‘free’ nature experience for children, adults, schools/youth groups and seniors.”

She also pointed out that of the 83 State Parks, the Mount Gilead State Park is one of the top ranked parks for guest activities. The Nature Center has 254 ongoing activities for kids during the summer and extending into another 100 pus programs throughout the winter with in-school programming.

New this year is a new archery program opened at the Center. The VIP Program (Volunteers in the Park) hosts 31 country breakfasts each season and five festivals with live music and entertainment.

“The proceeds from these events remain in the park,” said Harper. “The VIPs have also built playgrounds, shelter houses, a basketball court, shuffle board, corn hole and horseshoe games. They are a very active group of volunteers dedicated to make our small park the best for our community to enjoy.”

She noted this year the VIPs are adding $6,000 in playground equipment that was voted on by their breakfast patrons.

Harper said the ODNR has stated both the upper and lower dams will be replaced before winter of 2016. Both the upper and lower dams will be dredged as well, offering the opportunity for paddle boats to return. In line with that she said the ODNR was drilling test holes last week at the lower dam. It is also rumored that flush toilets and showers will be included in this project.

The Friends of the Park seek to match grants, solicit from the community, and welcome philanthropic gifts. The organization is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) Corporation and any dues or donations are deductible for tax purposes.

Membership can be made by sending $10 to Friends of the Park, P O 145, Mount Gilead 43338. Everyone is welcome!

“Come out to the park, breathe the air, listen to the birds, get close to nature!” invites Harper.

Correspondent Evelyn Long can be reached at wlong2@columbus.rr.com.

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