By Kimber Caito, Media Coordinator, Fairfield County Park District
THEN. Smeck Park was acquired in 1999 by donation from Harold Smeck. Later, what is now called Fetter-Hood Barn was disassembled at its location on OH-37, near OU-Lancaster (2005-6). The wood was put in storage and the foundation was reconstructed. For many years, visitors who did not know the purpose of the stone pillars may have wondered why it was there…perhaps a modern Stonehenge? In 2011 a levy passed that provides funding for the District. At first, as many of you know, efforts were focused on finishing the decade-long restoration of Rock Mill. Focus then shifted to Smeck Park and other locations. The beautiful picnic shelter patterned after Rock Mill Covered Bridge was built (2013). When picnic tables and benches were added it started to look like a real park! A short trail was created from the shelter to Walnut Creek, where it abruptly ended. In 2014 the enclosed shelter house was built and one year later the late-1800s Stover windmill was erected. Playground equipment was relocated from Sanderson Elementary School. Locals discovered the park and it started to grow in popularity.
NOW. In 2017 there was a change in administration. Decisions about next steps had to be made so a master plan for Smeck Park was developed. One of the first projects completed was the extension of the trail. Now, the Paw Paw and Walnut Creek trails combine to make a two-mile loop. A long set of steps from the ridge, down the ravine, to Walnut Creek was built (2018) so visitors could enjoy the water, topography, and varied habitats Smeck has to offer. It was surprising to find there were still many Baltimore and Fairfield County residents who did not know about Smeck. A new entrance sign was installed. Attendance at the park increased almost immediately.
There was a flurry of activity in 2019-20. The moment visitors walked into the park, they saw construction! The first thing in sight was construction of Cruit House, the 1829 log-framed house that was being restored at the park. As finishing touches were being made to Cruit House, construction of the Fetter-Hood Barn replica was beginning! Finally, the massive foundation realized its purpose as the enormous double forebay barn was erected in just a matter of months. There is still work to be done such as adding electric service, but it is almost finished.
A new roadway into the park and a new parking area near the picnic shelter were welcome additions to those who rent the shelter as well as vendors at events and staff who need to carry supplies! With the exception of Cruit House, all these improvements were achieved with funds provided by the ten-year countywide levy that passed in 2011. It should be mentioned that a lot of hard work is done at the park by Fairfield County Park District Volunteers and members of Fairfield County Antique Tractor Club. Spoiler Alert: Did you enjoy the magnificent sunflowers last summer? There will be even more this year!
TOMORROW. What is planned for the future of Smeck Park? ADA-compatible access from the parking lot to Cruit House, Fetter-Hood Barn, and part of the trail are at the top of the To Do List. Other plans include installation of permanent restrooms, a new playground, a storybook trail, resurfacing the parking lot, extension of the pollinator garden, and a trail extension to Bibler Lock. The connection to Bibler Lock will add more than 28 acres to the park. The new trail will run along the old Ohio & Erie Canal towpath. When finished, the trail system at Smeck Park will be the longest in the District!
Smeck Park is at 7395 Basil Rd in Baltimore, about one mile south of OH-256. If you haven’t visited Smeck Park recently, please come soon! And, watch for more ‘Then, Now, Tomorrow’ stories. Get outside, beat pandemic fatigue at Fairfield County Parks – we’re here for you! Find all locations at fairfieldcountyparks.org.