OHIO — Crews are hard at work along U.S. 68 in Greene County, bringing to life the building that will serve as the foundation for Ohio’s 76th State Park.
Great Council State Park and its featured cultural interpretive center are taking shape along U.S. 68 between Xenia and Yellow Springs. Developed alongside three federally recognized Shawnee tribes, the center is focused on Ohio’s native peoples, their history in their Ohio homeland, and their lives today.
The park is expected to open in early 2024.
The interpretive center is a 12,000-square-foot modern interpretation of a council house, the primary gathering place and traditional dwelling in a Shawnee village.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has worked with the Shawnee Tribe, Eastern Shawnee Tribe and Absentee Shawnee Tribe in designing building, exhibits, and the interpretive content being developed for the site.
The site draws inspiration from original Shawnee longhouses, and Gov. Mike DeWine said visitors will have the opportunity to “immerse themselves in the culture of the people who lived in the region and the natural landscape that played a such a large role in their lives.”
The steel framework of the building is up, and drywall was going in Thursday. The next steps include installing the glass panels along the exterior, along with the skylight on the roof, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources said. Inside, contractors’ next project is the “living stream” centerpiece on the main floor.
The area around Great Council State Park in Xenia Twp. was once home to Oldtown, one of the largest-known Shawnee settlements in Ohio. It had a population around 1,000 people between 1777 and 1780. The site is also near the birthplace of Tecumseh, the 18th century Shawnee chief, warrior and orator.
“I grew up not far from here, and the stories about this area’s Shawnee and pioneer past have always captivated me,” DeWine said. “The goal of Great Council State Park is to ensure that this fascinating history continues to be passed down through generations.”
Once the interpretive center is complete, visitors will find three floors of exhibits, including a second floor balcony with a view of where the Shawnee village would have been located at the end of the 1700s. The basement gallery will meet museum-grade curation standards, according to ODNR, with strict environmental and security controls for curated and traveling exhibits, displays, and artifacts.
ODNR also recently acquired 14 acres of land next to the Interpretive Center, with plans for a loop hiking trail around a native prairie.
The total construction budget for Great Council State Park is $11.4 million.
In addition to the state parks, Ohio has 20 state memorials, 17 state forests and 12 wildlife areas. They are visited by an estimated 31 million people every year.
Hueston Woods, with portions in Preble and Butler counties, is one of those state parks. According to the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, a new bridge is being built in front of the park’s campgrounds. It is replacing a road and culverts that were there.