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‘History walk’ held at Beatty Park in Steubenville

A WALK IN THE PARK - Organizers say Saturday’s history walks at Beatty Park were a chance to show area residents the transformation that’s under way there as well as share its history. The Friends of Beatty Park sponsored the walks, which drew more than 140 people. (Photo by Linda Harris)

STEUBENVILLE — Flora VerStraten-Merrin figured cooler temperatures, the return of Big 10 football and ongoing COVID-19 concerns would deflate attendance at Saturday’s Beatty Park history walks.

She was wrong.

“We thought we had three strikes against us for good attendance,” VerStraten-Merrin, a Friends of Beatty Park founder, said. “(But) none of that stopped people from coming and listening, asking questions and seeing.”

About 140 people signed the registry for the two history walks held Saturday, VerStraten-Merrin said, “and we are sure some didn’t sign in.” The morning walk alone drew at least 60 people.

VerStraten-Merrin and volunteer Linda Hilty led the walks, sharing highlights of the property’s more than 200 year history as they took participants about a half-mile into the park and back again.

VerStraten-Merrin told the group how Beatty, formed in 1797, had once been a nature preserve. Union Cemetery held title to the 99-acre property from 1854 to 1929. It became Beatty Park in 1930, when the City of Steubenville bought it.

“This road went all the way through to Union Cemetery,” she said. “Funeral processions used to go up this (way) so they could avoid having to pay the toll” to use Market Street.

Participants were appreciative of the transformation.

Mingo Junction Hazel Murray said she “wanted to see what they’ve done here.”

“I’d heard they’ve done a lot of work here,” she said.

“When you see the pictures on Facebook, you can tell they’ve done a lot of work,” Rita Constantini, another Mingo Junction resident, interjected. “I grew up down here on Spring Avenue so I used to walk all through (here).”

Constantini said she’s never realized the park was at one time an entrance to Union Cemetery, or that Mark Street had been a toll road.

“They’re doing more work, things are being done with the trails,” she said.

Larry Petrella accompanied his wife, Mericka, who said she was excited about the opportunity to hear first-hand what’s been happening there.

“I like history,” the Steubenville resident said. “I wanted to see it, where it started and how it’s progressing.”

John Boileigh of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was also on hand for the event, overseeing an archaeological and nature display and answering questions. VerStraten-Merrin said one of their most exciting discoveries to date has been the old stone lodge, “we think we’ve made the connection to the GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic, and the Masonic order.”

“We have it dated to at least 1870, if not earlier,” she added. “Through the archaeology, we’ve dated it to at least 1871, but it may be even earlier.”

City Parks & Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf said she’s glad to see so much interest in the walks and other activities at the park.

“It’s good because we want people to make use of our parks,” she said. “There is so much history in Beatty Park and I’m happy to see the growing interest in our city’s history and what nature has to offer.”

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