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Great Council State Park has grand opening


OLDTOWN — Located on St. Rt. 68 — between Xenia and Yellow Springs — sits the newly opened Great Council State Park. The park, built near a small Shawnee settlement founded in Oldtown over a century ago, held its grand opening on Friday, June 7, at 10 a.m.

The long-anticipated park’s grand opening drew a crowd of over 1,000 which had gathered outside in front of the center to hear Gov. Mike DeWine’s opening remarks which included a shout out to visiting tribes.

“This is your home,” said DeWine. “Long after I’m Governor, we’ll continue our relationship.” First Lady Fran DeWine spoke about her affinity for that area known as “Old Chillicothe” having grown up just a few miles down the road from the Interpretive Center site. She also had studied the diets of the tribes and pioneers living in the area and shared that knowledge with those who had gathered.

DeWine welcomed three federally-recognized Shawnee tribes and their leaders — Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe; Chief Ben Barnes of the Shawnee Tribe, and Representative DeWayne Wilson of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe — all of whom had traveled from Oklahoma to view their ancestor’s former homeland and tribal home — that of legendary Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh, who died in the Battle of 1812.

After the tribal leaders spoke, small gifts were presented to the DeWines and a tall bronze statue of Tecumseh (who was known as the “panther in the sky”) was unveiled in his likeness depicting a possible battle stance or addressing other tribal leaders. Other officials such as Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz, and ODNR’s Division of Parks and Watercraft Chief, Glen Cobb, spoke about working with the DeWines and the timeline of making the proposed interpretive center and state park a reality.

The park features a cultural interpretive center focused on Ohio’s Native Peoples and their connection and history to the prevailing farmland, prairies, forests, and scenic rivers such as the Little Miami. The 12,000 square foot interpretive center features a three-story structure, which was designed to pay tribute to the Shawnee longhouse, a traditional dwelling of the Shawnee people.

A living stream — stocked with fish native to the local river and streams — was a key attraction at the grand opening and a signature display located on the main floor which also holds a theater, various exhibits, gift area, welcome desk, and other points of interest.

Due to a generous donation by the Knick family, land along the river banks is preserved by the Little Miami Conservancy and the Tecumseh Land Trust. The park is working to restore its former vast prairie and habitat. A half mile trail takes visitors through a variety of wild plants such as hemp dogbone which was used to make cords, fishing line, and nets by the Shawnee.

Contact Karen Rase at 937-502-4534.