Search begins for historic relics at Warren County sports park site

Heavy equipment will continue work on the rest of the Warren County Sports Park at Union Village, while archaeological digging is done at the site of two privies dating back two centuries. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF

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Heavy equipment will continue work on the rest of the Warren County Sports Park at Union Village, while archaeological digging is done at the site of two privies dating back two centuries. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF

An archaeologist and other specialists in the collection and preservation of historic relics should begin work this week at the proposed Warren County Sports Park at Union Village.

Terracon, a South Carolina-based consultant already doing soil testing on the 120-plus acre site, has been hired by the county’s port authority to dig up two privies (outdoor toilets) dating back to two centuries.

Last week, the port authority board approved a contract for up to $87,000 in services to be completed over the next 90 days, as heavy equipment continues laying out the the $15 million sports park, financed through an increase in the lodgings tax.

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The contract is the result of discussions between county officials, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio History Connection/State Historic Preservation Office. The state has standing to weigh in on the development due to the fact that state funds are being used in the project

“Preservation is always our preference, however, that’s not always possible. In those cases we pursue mitigation solutions,” Emmy Beach, public relations manager for the Ohio History Connection said in an email.

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The area to undergo the archaeological examination, located on about six acres on the south side of the development site, is known as the North Family Lot Site of Union Village, a 19th century Shaker settlement.

The site was discovered in 2004 when a sharp turn in Ohio 741 was straightened by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

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The archaeological work is expected to force a shift in the work plan, but not a delay in progress, on the sports park, expected be opened later this year.

“We’re just trying to be as cooperative as possible,” Matt Schnipke, secretary of the port authority, said on Monday before the port board approved the contract.

Terracon contracted to analyze up to 4,000 artifacts from the former privy sites, across Ohio 741 from the entrance to Armco Park.

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“The artifacts, notes, photographs, maps, and other project-related materials will be returned to Terracon’s archaeology laboratory for processing upon completion of the field studies. Artifacts will be analyzed by relative provenience, sorted by technological and functional categories, and classified using accepted regional typologies and classification systems. Artifacts will be cataloged and entered into a computer database and detailed descriptions will be provided as part of the report appendices,” the company stated in a letter outlining contract terms.

While cooperating, county officials opted against turning the project over to the state.

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At last week’s meeting, Schnipke looked forward to the report being complete in 60 days and indicated it would be up to the port authority to decide what to do about the relics.

Schnipke told board members, most of whom were listening via teleconference, “this isn’t necessary to begin with,” based on discussions with lawyers over the extent of the state’s influence there.

Last week, Beach said the state was unable to comment on the steps being taken by the county on the project.

“We don’t have the plans from port authority, so we can’t yet provide guidance or recommendations to them,” she said.

Martin Russell, director of the port authority and deputy county administrator, said work would continue on the rest of the site, while they awaited the report on the archaeological dig.

“We are taking a proactive approach to cooperating by amending our contract with our geo-technical firm,” he said. “We’re going to continue working on the rest of the park.”

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