Mason-Dixon Historical Park unites communities across what was once a line of division.
➼ Just minutes west of Morgantown on West Virginia Route 7, Mason-Dixon Historical Park boasts 300 acres of hiking trails and remote sections of Dunkard Creek perfect for a little peaceful fishing or paddling. But this park is more than recreational: It also commemorates the famous labors of English astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
Mason and Dixon were tasked in 1763 with surveying a 240-mile line disputed by the Penns and the Calverts, whose royal charters overlapped. Ultimately, Mason and Dixon were forced to cut their survey short in 1767 when their Native American guides could not cross into enemy territory. The point where they made their final observations, Brown’s Hill, is part of Mason-Dixon Historical Park and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
“I love the historical significance of the Mason-Dixon Line,” says Betty Wiley, who has been involved with the park since it was established in the mid-1970s. “I grew up on adjacent property and hiked on the park property as a kid.”
Today, the park’s amenities include cabins, a camping area, pavilions, a barn, and several ball fields, along with indoor facilities that are available to rent for any occasion. “Here at Mason-Dixon Historical Park, we have the flexibility to hold a variety of events throughout the year,” says J.R. Petsko, who has been park superintendent since 2016. “We have something for everyone: wildflower walks, a summer concert series, community ramp and buckwheat dinners, festivals, and more.”
This year’s Summer Concert Series kicks off on June 9 and features the tunes of Allegheny Reign, a bluegrass group from right here in north central West Virginia. For just $5 a person, and free for kids under 12, community members can take blankets or chairs and enjoy a music-filled evening. Other acts taking the stage this summer include The Hillbilly Gypsies on July 14, Jakobs Ferry Stragglers on August 4, and Holly Spears on August 19.
Also taking place this summer is the Hilly Billy Roubaix bicycle ride, one of Mason-Dixon Historical Park’s biggest events of the year. Attendees participate in a 74-mile bike race through the winding back roads and hills of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Scheduled for June 23 this year, the event draws a crowd of spectators, who get in for free.
“Five hundred bicycle riders from all over the world come to the park for this each year. Last year, we had riders from 20 different states as well as Canada and Europe,” Petsko says. “For cyclists, they call this a bucket list event, and we are ecstatic that they come and enjoy Morgantown for that weekend every year.”
The month of August brings another popular and unique event, the Mountain Spirit Pow Wow, which honors Native American culture through a weekend of education and entertainment complete with food, music, dancing, and crafts.
The park has added a new annual event to its calendar. Last fall the inaugural Mason-Dixon Line Festival marked the 250th anniversary of the completion of Mason and Dixon’s survey. “We had a grand celebration and it was a great success,” says Petsko. Visitors loved the festival so much, he says, park administration decided to make it an annual fall event. This year’s Mason-Dixon Line Festival is set for Saturday, October 13. “Again we’ll have surveying demonstrations, workshops, quilt shows, food vendors, arts and crafts, a buckwheat breakfast, and much more,” says Petsko. “We are so excited.”
Throughout the winter months, events in the park’s indoor facilities include family movie nights with films shown on a 16-foot screen, salt rising bread workshops in the kitchen, visits from Santa Claus every December, and craft workshops for kids.
Support for the park comes from the Monongalia County Commission. Taxpayers have also given strong support. “Thanks to the voters of Monongalia County approving the parks levy last year, we have made many improvements and will continue to do so over the next few years,” Petsko says. “One of my favorite improvements that was made possible because of the levy has been the new playground set we added to the park last spring. It has become a hot spot for families.” The levy has also allowed Mason-Dixon Historical Park to upgrade roads, install new trails with bridges, and complete park beautification projects.
With half of the park lying in Pennsylvania, collaboration between the neighboring counties is also critical. “It is a very interesting dynamic, with two counties each owning half a park,” Petsko says. “Luckily for the parkgoers, both Monongalia County and Greene County recognize the historical and recreational positives this park offers to its visitors.” Together, the two counties make it a priority to provide a safe and fun place for families to enjoy.
“I think most people would agree that, sadly, our day-to-day lives have become fast-paced, busy, and even stressful at times. The Mason-Dixon Historical Park offers a place where you can visit and just slow down for a few hours,” says Petsko. “Take an easy walk along Dunkard Creek, hike in the woods, grill out at one of our pavilions, relax and listen to some great bluegrass music on concert nights at our outdoor amphitheater, or enjoy one of our festivals to relax and forget about your daily hustle.”
Mason-Dixon Historical Park is open for public use from 8 a.m. to dark seven days a week. 79 Buckeye Road, Core, masondixonhistoricalpark.com
written by Kaylyn Christopher
featured photo courtesy of Mason-Dixon Historical Park