Ariel Foundation Park (Mt. Vernon)

In Mt. Vernon sits a 250-acre park on land that once housed the Pittsburgh Plate and Glass (PPG) Glassworks No. 11 factory which was at the time of its opening- 1951- the world’s largest plate glass factory.  It closed in 1979.  By 2015 a new park opened on the property and Ariel Foundation Park became reality.

Reflecting Pools
Picture taken from the tallest earthen terrace is 40 feet above ground-level and oversees a couple of reflecting pools and the top of this terrace has its own sculpture made of twisted steel and painted bright red and that extends 30 feet up.

The park has several terraces which resemble burial grounds the Adena and Hopewell cultures would build however in the case of Ariel Foundation Park, the terraces are for seeing the scenery around the park itself which has several reflecting pools as well as some lakes which are located where there used to be gravel quarries.  The only watercraft permitted on the lakes have to be human-powered; no engines or sailboats.  Fishing is allowed if you have a fishing license.

Rastin Observation Tower
Other than communication towers, the Rastin Observation Tower is the tallest structure in Knox County. The steps go up for the first 140 feet of the 280 feet of PPG’s smokestack that was built in 1951 and used until the plant closed in 1979.

If you like climbing to high places then the Rastin Observation tower is for you.  The Independence Day fireworks display happens here and for the 2016 show- and I assume this will continue into the future- raffle tickets could be bought for $1 and the winner of the raffle could watch the fireworks from the tower.

DSC_0099
Pavilions for are available for rent around the Lakes and also some pavilions like this one is available for much smaller groups.

Parks like this are known for having pavilions to serve large groups but Ariel Foundation also has smaller ones for couples/families who don’t need 20 tables.  The pavilions are found around The Lakes.  The Knox County Fish and Game association held its annual Fishing Derby at The Lakes.  And the Heart of Ohio Trail runs right next to the park.

DSC_0105
The Schnormeier Events Center is a 17,000 square foot structure that has been wonderfully preserved at Ariel-Foundation Park. This building is a focal point for various community events, as it can accommodate up to 2,000 guests. Summer concerts are held there with seating provided or bring your own lawn chairs. Next to it is an elevator shaft from the PPG (Pittsburgh Plate and Glass) building.

The sections of the PPG plant that are saved throughout the park are referred to as The Ruins and they serve as a reminder of what once occupied the property.  There are also some steel girders among the Ruins that were saved from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  Most impressive to me is how many mature trees are already here.  Considering that the land once housed a factory I wondered the land would be mostly flat, without trees since there would also have been a flat parking lot to go with it.  Fortunately that was not the case; there are plenty of trees here.

River of Glass
These chunks of glass, known as “cullet,” were found by the thousands during park construction, leftover from the old PPG plant. Cullet was formed when a glass melting tank was shut down for repair and the molten glass remaining in the tank had cooled and hardened. The mass would be broken into pieces, removed, and later re-melted to make new glass.

Aaron Keirns has written a book about the park and its history.  Also on the property is the Urton Clock House which is a museum which covers the history of the PPG plant that was once here and it also serves as an event center for anyone who would like to rent it.

There are a couple of entrances to the park.  If you’re coming up from the south on Ohio 3/U.S. 36, you’ll see an entrance next to the Harcourt Motel.  That entrance will get you to a parking area next to the lakes and that’s about as far as you can go because the rest of the road through the park is one way.  You can still walk through the rest of the park from that parking lot if you want to.  Otherwise, the entrance picture at the top of this post is off the Pittsburgh Ave. entrance and that will get you through the whole park.  There is a parking lot about 500 feet or so east of this entrance and is next to the Clock House as well as the observation tower.  Regardless of where you park, you will be doing a lot of walking because it is after all, 250 acres!

Ariel Foundation Park
10 Pittsburgh Ave.
Mt. Vernon, OH  43050

Hours:  7 AM – 11 PM; the observation tower is closed during the winter months.  The park is officially open April 1 – November 15, although most of the park (other than the tower and the lakes which have a tendency to freeze in the winter) is accessible year-round.

Admission:  Free

Parking:  Free

Distance from Ohio cities:

  • 49 miles northeast of Columbus
  • 163 miles northeast of Cincinnati
  • 107 miles south-southwest of Cleveland
  • 85 miles southwest of Akron
  • 132 miles southeast of Toledo

 

 

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