NEWELL - Visiting Laurel Hollow Park in Newell will now be a matter of stepping onto a deck and looking down.
For those without the time or mobility to walk the park's trails, the deck's benches offer convenience and a scenic view of the restored, historic park, said Beverly Enochs, president of the Newell Community Improvement Coalition.
"I can't wait to see what it looks like in the winter time," Enochs said.
OPENING — Among those attending Friday’s unofficial opening of the Laurel Hollow Park overlook were, from left, Katelyn Masters, marketing coordinator for the Homer Laughlin China Co.; J.J. Thompson, member of the Newell Community Improvement Coalition; Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis; coalition member Leah Rae Pieronek; Juszczak Construction employee Jason Juszczak; Homer Laughlin historian David Conley; Katie McIlvain, Homer Laughlin national accounts manager; and Floyd Wilson, coalition chairman of the board. -- Stephen Huba
SIT AND ENJOY THE VIEW — Benches on the new Laurel Hollow Park overlook afford a scenic view of the Bears’ Den amphitheater, where the Newell Community Improvement Coalition hosts concerts. -- Stephen Huba
The coalition is in the process of putting the finishing touches on the deck - the latest in a series of improvements that have brought Laurel Hollow Park back to life after decades of neglect.
The overlook, which sits about midway between the park's two entrances on Washington Street (state Route 2) in Newell, is made of composite lumber, bricks and decorative fencing. Four benches offer seating with a view of the Bears' Den amphitheater, where, in the summertime, the coalition hosts a Summer Concert Series.
Funding for the project came from a $30,000 grant awarded to the coalition last year by the East Liverpool-Fawcett Community Foundation. The grant was made possible by a special bequest from Robert and Carolyn Wells, longtime benefactors and residents of Newell.
"We're just very thankful to the Wellses. I just wish they could be here to see this," Enochs said. "They loved nature."
Robert Wells died in 2007 and Carolyn in 2005.
Work on the deck began in the spring with the clearing of trees by Wayne Six of Six Enterprises. Construction of the deck and landscaping was done by Juszczak Construction. All that remains to be done is the installation of decorative lighting along the length of the park on Washington Street later this year, Enochs said.
"So far, the grant has covered everything," she said.
The coalition also has a $10,000 Community Participation Grant from the West Virginia Senate it hopes to use next year for the installation of security lighting on the park's walking trails.
Because the deck sits partly on a state right-of-way, the coalition had to obtain a permit from the West Virginia Division of Highways, Enochs said. Laurel Hollow Park, which dates back to 1907, is located on land leased by the Hancock County Commission from the Homer Laughlin China Co., she said.
Much of the park's early development was funded by Homer Laughlin salesman George Washington Clarke, according to the website LaurelHollowPark.net. The park closed after Clarke's death in 1913 and fell into disrepair for decades.
In 2008, a joint initiative by the Hancock County Commission and the coalition to clean up and renovate the park brought it back to life.
Since 2009, the non-profit coalition has received $40,000 in Wells grant money from the Fawcett Foundation to make improvements to the park, including walking and bike paths, picnic areas, lighting, landscaping, grills, an information kiosk and an amphitheater.
(Huba can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)