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Published: Tuesday, 2/24/2009

Progress is made in expansion, restoration at Pearson Metropark

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Many people were surprised that the Johlin house, which had been encased in asbestos shingles, was a log cabin. Interior walls were plastered, and other layers of flooring covered original wood. Many people were surprised that the Johlin house, which had been encased in asbestos shingles, was a log cabin. Interior walls were plastered, and other layers of flooring covered original wood.
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With Pearson Metropark's 75th anniversary approaching, work is progressing with the Oregon park's roughly $5 million northern expansion, where a log cabin built in 1866 is being outfitted with wavy glass windows and other details from the era.

The expansion also is doubling Pearson's size, returning to wetlands about 300 acres last used as farmland. More than 100,000 trees and shrubs already have been planted on the land, where the cabin built by the late George Johlin and donated by his son, Fred Johlin of Woodville, will serve as the center for various programs and events.

Together, the land and cabin will demonstrate to school groups and other visitors what the Black Swamp area looked like when it was settled, said Russ Schifferly, Toledo Area Metroparks project manager.

"We're doing historical restoration here at this structure, but we're also doing environmental restoration," he said.

Terry Breymaier, chairman of the Pearson North Capital campaign, displays cabin plans. Terry Breymaier, chairman of the Pearson North Capital campaign, displays cabin plans.
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Said Mike Hopkins, a Pearson North Capital Campaign member: "In about five years, this is going to start looking like a little wilderness."

Pearson's actual 75th anniversary is Aug. 30, but the celebration is kicking off next month with a four-Sunday lecture series called "The Trail to Pearson." Lectures will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. March 8, 15, 22, and 29 at Pearson's Macomber Lodge.

Festivities are being planned for the Aug. 30 weekend to commemorate the opening of the park named for the late George Pearson, a reporter for The Blade who led a drive to use the land for recreation. Restoration work on the Johlin cabin will be finished by that weekend and dedicated, Mr. Schifferly said.

More than $330,000 has been raised by the community so far to move the two-floor cabin from where it was built about 1 1/2 miles away and to restore it, and Oregon has been instrumental in the effort, said Terry Breymaier, chairman of the capital campaign.

Various volunteers and businesses also have helped with renovations. Windows that are ready to be installed, for example, have wavy glass from the era donated by the Jensen family of Oregon, and Ray Schmidt of Oregon crafted their frames.

Some timbers that needed to be replaced came from as far away as Erie, Pa., and old wood from Oak Openings Metropark will serve as paneling on interior walls. The cabin also will have a stove and other pieces reflective of the 1860s.

"It's going to be a unique place here, because this is going to be done with true accuracy and faithfulness to the 1860s," Mr. Breymaier said.

Pearson's northern expansion has come together in the last few years, after the Metroparks bought the land for $2.05 million, much of which came from grant money. Another $2.5 million for environmental work, including planting trees and shrubs, was secured from the Ohio Wetlands Foundation.

Sewer, water, and electrical lines are in place for the cabin. The hope is to heat and cool the cabin with a geothermal system, and the capital campaign is looking for funding for one, Mr. Breymaier said.

Next year, modern rest rooms housed in a historical-looking building near the cabin will be finished, and a 2 1/2-mile trail system will be established on the property in a couple of years, Mr. Schifferly said.

Many people were surprised that the Johlin house, which had been encased in asbestos shingles, was a log cabin, said Mr. Hopkins, who also knows of a second original log cabin in Oregon. Plus, interior walls were plastered, and other layers of flooring covered the original wood, he and the other men said.

"You'd never know it was a log cabin," Mr. Hopkins said. "As you pulled it apart, you knew the cabin was underneath."



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