Recycled materials help span gap at Portage park

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The 100-foot boardwalk, with two flights of stairs and a gazebo now in place at Towners Woods in Franklin Township was once a railroad loading dock.

Traditionally workers at the Portage County park have been using recycled materials for improvements and the boardwalk is no exception.

"The story of the whole park is scrounging around and using found materials," said Portage County Park Commissioner Allan Orashan.

Recently, the district again made a little money go a long way when they contracted with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Civilian Conservation Corps, which rebuilt the boardwalk and gazebo at a fraction of what it would have cost had contractors done the work.

The CCC is an education and job training program for people between 18 and 24. The program offers job experience through a variety of projects throughout a multi-county area, according to Mark Gonzales of the Canton CCC Camp.

"What's nice is we were be able to use their program that helps train people in the work force, and we were able to get the job done at a discount," said Christine Craycroft, director of the Portage County Parks District.

The entire boardwalk and gazebo were dismantled, and materials that were still good were used again. The workers spent seven weeks and put in more than 2,500 hours on the project.

When it was done, the project, funded by the Portage County Commissioners, cost $10,000. Gonzales estimated the project would have cost four times as much had it been done by a commercial builder.

Craycroft said she got estimates from several builders before calling the CCC, but because of unforeseen problems, there was more labor involved than anticipated.

Orashan, who was the parks director when the park was built in 1976, oversaw the construction of the gazebo and walkway.

He said they were built after a deal was struck to use lumber from the loading dock, which was torn out when the Kent Historical Society arranged to have the dock removed to make way for a parking lot for the Pufferbelly restaurant.

The dock was built during World War II to load ambulances manufactured by the Twin Coach Company into train cars.

"They were big timbers," Orashan said. "It was a wonderful source of material."

A crew of workers from the Comprehensive Employment Training Act built the original deck, using mostly materials from the old dock. Some other items, like the wooden poles which hold up the gazebo, were donated.

Recently, the roof on the gazebo was rebuilt, using "shales," or handmade wooden shingles, from old telephone poles.

"Most of the things at that park are recycled," he said.

Craycroft said the gazebo is one of the most popular attractions at the park.

"People have used the gazebo for weddings," she said. "It can be reserved for weddings and special events."

Craycroft said a variety of projects ae expected to be completed in the

months ahead. In addition to staining the newly rebuilt deck, there are

also plans to resurface the parking lot, install a new water system, and

do some work on the pavilion at the park.

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