Quaker Falls a scenic wonder in Lawrence County

This view of the scenic Quaker Falls in Mahoning Township was captured by visitor Tim Lyons.

Lawrence County planning staff members have put finishing touches on the new Quaker Falls county park in preparation for next week's grand opening.

A public ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned at the recreation area for 2 p.m. Tuesday. 

The 180-acre park has remained closed to the public while finishing touches were added to the site that is being improved as an area for hikers and sightseers.

Amy McKinney, county planning director, and Rebecca Shaffer, deputy director of community development, are leading the project, which began five years ago. The land is on the north side of Route 224 in Mahoning Township and includes a 50-foot-high scenic waterfall.

The county planners have obtained grant funding and acquired property at the scenic site, where an archaeological dig in 1979 uncovered a pre-existing town and civilization that dates back to the 1800s. That settlement is long gone.

The county's Greenways Plan approved in 2017 identified the tract as one that should be developed into a county park for recreational purposes. The plan also identifies the land as a high priority conservation area.

A Penn Power representative had contacted the previous board of commissioners in 2016, seeking to transfer the ownership to the county. The commissioners seized the idea as an opportunity to create the county park.

The county, while working through legalities, applied for Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grants and received $385,000 to undertake the park improvements. 

Shaffer has taken the lead on its planning and has continued to oversee its progress.

The first phase of the project was a pedestrian bridge, which replaces an old railroad trestle that can be seen from Route 224. The old railroad bridge was built in 1894 and the Pennsylvania & Lake Erie Railroad used it for many years, abandoning it in the late 1970s, according to information from Lawrence County Memoirs. The bridge was part of a branch road off the P&LE main line that began near Lowellville, Ohio, and extended into Hillsville and Bessemer.

At end of last year, the county awarded a contract to North Beaver Contracting LLC for construction of a parking lot and a quarter-mile of 6-foot-wide tarred and chipped trail.

The trail leads to a natural trail, where people will park, and there is a walking path to the bridge and to other areas to view the falls.

A turn gate has been installed in front of the bridge to keep recreational vehicles out. Eventually, pavilions and picnic tables will be added.

The park, once opened to the public, will be accessible from dawn to dusk.

McKinney noted that outside of the DCNR grant, the county has not spent any dollars except to acquire the property for $15,000. It also paid for an appraisal and a minimal fee to Penn Power.

The county is acquiring another adjoining tract of 58-acres that is considered to be Quaker Falls South, which is north of the county's acquired land. That section is the location of the archaeological dig done by John White, an anthropology professor at Youngstown State University, and a group of his students about 30 years ago. White died on Aug. 28, 2009, and Quakertown is mentioned in his obituary as one of the many archaeological digs that uncovered a Quaker settlement that existed there in the late 1800s.

More information about the scenic recreation area is available by visiting Lawrence County Department of Planning & Community Development on Facebook.

dwachter@ncnewsonline.com

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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