Cross Mound Park & Sensory Trail Park – Then, Now, Tomorrow

By Kimber Caito, Media Coordinator, Fairfield County Park District

Works Progress Administration Pedestrian Bridge

CROSS MOUND PARK

THEN (Before 2017) Cross Mound Park was acquired by transfer from Ohio History Connection in 1994.  It is 28 beautiful acres with unique features!  Named after Cross Mound, the park is home to an unusual earthwork.  It is in the shape of a Greek cross with four identical arms each about 12′ wide, 3′ high and 45′ long.  In the middle of the cross is a circular-shaped depression that is 20′ in diameter and about 12″ deep.  The orientation of the arms nearly aligns with the cardinal points of north, south, east, west.

The original purpose of this mound is still shrouded with mystery.  According to Ohio History Central, the “cross symbol… was used extensively during the Mississippian period to represent the Sun.  It is therefore possible that it was built by the contemporary Fort Ancient culture.”  Other references suggest it was built by the Hopewell Culture.  Archaeological explorations have not yielded any artifacts or evidence of its cultural origins.

To get to the mound, one must walk over the WPA Pedestrian Bridge that spans Salt Creek.  It was built in 1936 through the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  No, that isn’t a mistake.  In 1936 it was still called Works Progress Administration; in 1939 it was renamed Works Projects Administration.

NOW (2017-Present)

Vandalism is an ongoing problem at Cross Mound Park.  Not long ago, vandals dismantled the fence that circles Cross Mound!  While we appreciate it appeared to be a childish prank, as the rails were not damaged or stolen, it was a theft of time.  A staff member who was to clean and check on other parks had to spend hours reassembling the fence!  Picnic tables have repeatedly been broken because they are being used as ramps by skateboarders!

You can help prevent vandalism – how?  Visit the park!  Vandals avoid parks that are busy with people like you who appreciate them.  So, please come as often as you can.  It is a beautiful, peaceful place, abundant with wildlife and, if you enjoy birding, this is the place for you!

TOMORROW Plans for the future include permanent restrooms, extension of the trail, resurfacing the parking lot, and research of the mound’s history.

Mary Ruffner Covered Bridge

SENSORY TRAIL PARK

THEN & NOW (2017-Present)  Behind Forest Rose School on Granville Pike, next to OU-Lancaster, is Sensory Trail Park.  It was acquired by lease in 2017 from the Board of County Commissioners of Fairfield County.  This amazing little park is, well, amazing!  Everything in it – the trail, treehouse, swings, outdoor music instruments, nature stations – is wheelchair accessible!

TOMORROW  Plans for the future of Sensory Trail Park include wetland mitigation, a trail extension and boardwalk, and new wheelchair-accessible charcoal grills and picnic tables.  One of the first things on the list is Mary Ruffner Covered Bridge!

In 2018 we obtained an estimate of over $400,000 for the deconstruction, move, and rebuild of the bridge.  As always, plans for improvements and development of parklands are dependent on funding.  That amount was well beyond our means, so the project was put on the back burner.  Fairfield County Park District funds are provided by a countywide ten-year levy that expires this year.  A renewal (not a new tax) will appear on the May 2021 ballot.

Because of his interest in extending the Lancaster Bike Trail north to Rainbow Drive, Michael Tharp, Superintendent of Lancaster Parks & Recreation, approached our Director, Todd Younkin, to suggest a joint effort to move Ruffner from Perry County ‘back home’ to Fairfield County.  Her new home will be Sensory Trail Park!  City of Lancaster officials have been contacted to find out what permits will be necessary for the move and placement.  The cost, however, is still an issue.

Michael Tharp obtained other quotes.  The move can be accomplished for $40,000.  The removal of the roof and awnings for transport, permit fees, abutment construction, and reassembly could reach as much as $150,000. The total project should come in around $200,000, less than half of the original quote!  At this point, the project has received more than $100,000 in verbal commitments.  At minimum, another $100,000 is needed to ensure the move.  Anyone wishing to donate to help bring Mary Ruffner Covered Bridge back to Lancaster should contact Fairfield County Foundation, Sensory Trail Fund, at 740 654-8451.

Hannaway Covered Bridge

A spot spanning Fetter Run (creek) that is less than 85’ and outside the floodway is needed.  The search for the optimal location is underway

Get outside, beat pandemic fatigue at Fairfield County Parks – we’re here for you!  Find these and all locations at fairfieldcountyparks.org.

And…watch for more ‘Then, Now, Tomorrow’ stories.

Mary Ruffner Covered Bridge

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