STEUBENVILLE — No fooling — the morning hours of April 1 with its clear, blue skies and shining sun made historic Beatty Park in Steubenville’s South End a beautiful environment for an old-fashioned Easter egg hunt sponsored by the volunteer group Friends of Beatty Park.
“I think that our old-fashioned Easter egg hunt was a big success,” commented organizer Flora L. VerStraten-Merrin. “We had anywhere from 100 to 125 children and their parents join us on a beautiful morning to hunt for Easter eggs.”
The eggs were hidden throughout the entrance green spaces for the older children, while the younger children hunted for eggs around the playground area.
“We decided to make the Easter egg hunt an adventure and add the storybook walk and pictures with the Easter bunny,” VerStraten-Merrin explained, expressing appreciation to all those who helped and to Dane Watkins and her crew from the Eastern Ohio Correction Center for hiding the hundreds of real colored eggs and candy-filled eggs throughout the park areas long before the children arrived.
She thanked the community as well for donating all of the eggs that were hidden. “Our Easter Bunny, Sharon Barezinsky, volunteered and was available for an hour to have pictures taken with children,” she added.
“The Story Book Walk was up and ready for the children to read the first new story for 2023,” she said. The stories are changed the first of each month, from April through October, with a Christmas story up for the holidays and the annual Christmas in the Park event.
“Many of the families who attended were amazed that it took about 40 minutes to hunt for all of the eggs,” VerStraten-Merrin said. “We wanted this to be an old-fashioned Easter egg hunt that we, the volunteers, remembered when we were growing up. We wanted the kids to search for the eggs. I met first-, second-, and third-generation families in the park and that was so much fun. When the kids were done hunting for eggs, they didn’t want to leave the park. I always watch the children after our events and notice that many want to stay in the park. There is no fancy equipment or toys or activities after our planned events, but for some reason, they just don’t want to leave. They seem perfectly fine to play and run in the green spaces, hike the trails, play in the leaves and in the creek. The world seems to slow down just a little for these families, and unorganized play seems to take on an importance in this busy world we live in,” VerStraten-Merrin reflected.
“In 1931, the Herald-Star ran a story about the Easter egg hunt in Beatty Park. That was the first year the park was officially owned and run by the city of Steubenville. It was reported that thousands of eggs were hidden throughout the park and more than 1,200 children attended. How about that? Back then everyone from all corners of the city and their families walked to the park. We don’t have the population that we had back then, but to have more than 100 children in the park shows our volunteer group that the park isn’t coming back to life, but instead, that it has arrived,” she added.
The park already has been the site of three well-attended events so far this year and has more on the calendar, according to VerStraten-Merrin. They are posted on the sign near the first parking lot in the park and there are maps and brochures available at the Visitors Center at Historic Fort Steuben, the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and several stores on North Fourth Street in Steubenville.
Coming events includes:
– May 6: 10 a.m., spring flower and tree ID hike. with a free Ohio wildflower book provided.
– May 20: Paws in the Park, sponsored by the Jefferson County Humane Society and Animal Shelter.
– June 10: 10 a.m., a hike by John Boileigh and opportunity to learn about animal “Tracks, Scat and Splat,” and 11 a.m., Geocaching, learn about what it is, how to participate and where it is in Beatty Park and the community.
– June 17: 9 a.m., Dino Dash 5K run/walk, Rat Pack DJ and a Tot Trot 8:45 a.m. (ages 3 to 6 with medals given), registration online and Martin Luther King Recreation Center and Jefferson County Health Department.
– July 29: 10 a.m., “Stream Stomp” led by Boileigh, a chance to learn about amphibians of Ohio.
– Sept 23: 10 a.m., Historical Signs Walking Tour (14) learn about the history of the park, cemetery and South End.
– Oct. 7: 10 a.m., Union Cemetery Historical Walking Tour, meet at the cemetery for event involving local historians and tour guides.
– Dec 2: Noon begins the annual “Christmas in the Park” live animals “nativity,” Santa Claus, choirs, cookies, crafts, hikes and more — all free.
The Friends of Beatty Park organized and began to revitalize the park in November 2020, according to VerStraten-Merrin.
“We have been going strong since that time. We are more than a cleanup crew of volunteers. It goes much deeper then that. I, along with several other volunteers, grew up with Beatty Park, and we remember when the park was in its heyday. We love Beatty Park,” she commented. “Those who didn’t grow up on the park have now learned to love it and want to spend time in the park. In the past three and a half years, we’ve have been watching and even guilty of saying, ‘the park seems to be coming back.’ Honestly, now, the park is back. People are using the park,” she said of its 99 acres — a nature park.
“It’s a place for children and families to come for unorganized play time. This is almost unheard of these days. Children’s lives are almost completely scheduled and organized — every waking minute. So, here is a nature park, in a rust belt city, that has been declining over the years — and here is our little gem — a place to come where play is not organized but needed and enjoyed,” she commented.
She said money has been raised through charitable funding, grants and donations for various projects, including a handrail up the 220 steps on the historic streetcar staircase trail; repairs and restoration to the 1885 historic sandstone bridge; 1and 4 permanent historic and nature signs.
“Our most recent grant was obtained to develop an amphitheater up where the old pool was located and the old bleachers. Our goal is to get visitors out of their cars and see the nook and crannies in the park that simply aren’t seen while driving through in a car,” she noted.
VerStraten-Merrin expressed gratitude for “all of the community that continues to attend and support our events and donate funds and time and energy into this beautiful historic park.” That includes a core group of volunteers — Scott and Cheryl Wells, Linda and Roger Hilty, Tom Fahey, Buddy Merrin, Anthony Vitt and his crew from EOCC — and individuals such as John Boileigh, who has donated time to lead hikes and events.
The Facebook group at “Friends of Beatty Park” lists updates on events and activities.