Pine Ridge Park History

Pine Ridge Park is one of the original county parks, being acquired in·1966 at the same time as Blue Spruce Park. The park was officially opened to the public on July 4, 1971.The park was pieced together from several different parcels but the majority of the property was owned by R&P Coal Company at the time of its acquisition. Historically, the property has been largely forested, at least for the past 100 years. The property was too rocky to farm, although there is evidence that some of the park was used for pasture land, as evidenced by old strands of barb wire found embedded in park trees.

A saw mill reportedly operated in the Tom’s Run area at one time and evidence of a coal bank mine dug into a hillside exists along a rocky outcrop. There is also evidence that Tom’s Run was once known as Tomb’s Run – a common family in this part of southern Indiana County.

Clearing the park, building the park roads and constructing several small dams on Tom’s Run were the first work projects.

The forests have been thinned and a few clearings were created, but for the most part the tract has remained primarily forest. Tulip poplar trees constitute the main tree species found within the park, with lesser amounts of oak, maple, beech and sassafras.

At one time the chestnut tree was the predominant tree species in the region until the chestnut blight of the early 1900s. Remnant chestnut trees can still be found in the park in the area surrounding Pine Lodge. These chestnut trees have regenerated from chestnut tree stumps but are not expected to reach maturity; they will also likely succumb to the blight in time.

The construction of new Route 22 in the early 1960s bisected the northern portion of the property. As a result a 38-acre portion of the park is located north of Route 22 and separated from the rest of the park. This tract is used primarily for hunting and does not receive much public use. A PennDOT roadside rest area was once located within this tract.

The majority of the park, slightly less than 600 acres, is located south of Route 22. The installation of a large power line and a major transmission gas pipeline further divided the park into fragments. If all of the gas pipelines in the park were combined into one pipe it would constitute a pipe 20 feet in diameter. The park is at the crossroads of a major pipeline transmission route across Pennsylvania.

Like Blue Spruce Park, the Pine Ridge Park design was first conceived by landscape and recreation students at Penn State University. Robert Fenton, who finalized the Blue Spruce Park design, also completed the Pine Ridge Park site plan.

The original site plan proposed extensive development within the park. A ski slope with lodge, numerous pavilions, tent and camping areas, an extensive park road system and several large dams on Tom’s Run were proposed. The park entrance road was designed to enter directly from Route 22 but a highway occupancy permit could never be secured from PennDOT. The access road to the Tom’s Run area enters the park from Pine Ridge Road, formerly Old Route 22.

Pine Lodge was included in the original park plan – it was originally referred to as a day camp. The lodge was eventually constructed in the same location as a private cabin, known as the Laird Cabin that once existed on the property. The 0abin was torn down and a portion of the cabin’s block foundation was used in the construction of Pine Lodge. Some of the cabin’s interior wood siding was also used to construct the lodge kitchen cabinets, but the lodge was primarily a new facility built from scratch by county park employees and workers on various job employment programs.

Pine Lodge is one of the area’s most scenic places. Located off of Chestnut Ridge Road, in a secluded area of the park, it has been used for many functions including small weddings, reunions, picnics, business meetings and an annual Girl Scout Camp.

The Pennsylvania Conservation Corps completed two other projects at Pine Ridge including a fish habitat and stream restoration project in 1985 and the construction of a park pavilion and restroom in 1990. After the completion of the fish habitat project, Tom’s Run was added to the PA Fish & Boat Commission trout stocking program. The small stream receives two trout stockings each spring.

The park includes two hiking trails. The Lodge Trail, three miles long, connects the Tom’s Run Area to Pine Lodge on the opposite side of the mountain ridge. A second trail, the Tom’s Run Trail, is a one mile loop trail that circles the area between the park picnic area and Route 22.

A nine-hole disc golf course was added to the park in 2010. The recreational course is designed for beginners and intermediate users.

The Pine Ridge Park maintenance center serves as a hub for all county parks and trails in southern Indiana County. The park’s maintenance crew uses the park as a base to service the Ghost Town Trail, Buttermilk Falls Natural Area, Tunnelview Historic Site, Blacklick Valley Natural Area and the Hoodlebug Trail. The park crew has a large territory to cover.

On a hot summer day Pine Ridge Park is a great place to cool off under the shade of its forest canopy, to allow the kids to play in the mountain stream and to appreciate the efforts that were taken to preserve this mountain tract for future generations.