MASON, W.Va. — A group of volunteers has led the way to help complete the Virgil Lewis Memorial Reading Park on Brown Street in Mason.
Scott Brewer, a union carpenter from New Haven, along with about a dozen other volunteers, have spent evenings and weekends since the first of June building a gazebo, which is the next phase of the park.
Park designer Lowell Wilks, who is the project coordinator with Rivers to Ridges Heritage Trail, said when the park was dedicated last July, he knew he wanted a gazebo. Grant money was secured the first of this year from the Robert and Louise Claflin Foundation to purchase the materials.
“We thought we would get the Americorps volunteers in here this spring to build it, but their schedule changed and they couldn’t do it,” Wilks said. “I contacted Rick (Handley, Mason County commissioner) and he contacted Scott (Brewer).”
Handley said he knew Brewer because of his union trade affiliation and thought he could possibly get some carpenter apprentices to volunteer some time.
“Scott bailed us out,” Wilks said. “We could have waited nine months or a year for Americorps to get here, but Scott made it happen.”
Brewer has had volunteer help from several local residents, including some Wahama High School students needing community service hours. Site preparation work was done by Rick Barnitz of Bob’s Market and Greenhouses.
Wilks said the Rivers to Ridges group is small, and while they can plan how to do things, they need the communities to actually take on the projects. With the volunteer help, Wilks said there is enough money to complete the next phase.
“I think there will be enough money to install security lighting, as well as a permanent light for the flagpole,” he added.
Handley expressed his thanks to the people building the structure.
“We appreciate Scott and his volunteers stepping forward to complete this worthwhile project at the Virgil Lewis park,” he said.
The reading park is located on the former site of the Virgil Lewis home, which had deteriorated and had been deemed a safety hazard. The library is next door to the park, which is now used by the various programs there, especially story hour and summer reading. The gazebo will provide shelter for the children’s events, as well as for family picnics and town activities.
The park, which was built by Americorps volunteers, also includes a shelter with picnic tables, and an arbor, made from wood from the Lewis house. Bricks from the former chimney form a walkway leading to two informational plaques that tell of Lewis’ life and the architecture of the former house. Large sandstones from the house foundation form a “reading circle” of seats for the library to use.
Virgil Lewis was West Virginia’s first state historian and archivist. He was also a mayor of Mason, a state superintendent of schools, and an author of history books that were used in schools as textbooks.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.