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Governor and first lady DeWine welcome visitors to ODNR's Great Council State Park

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(Ohio Governor's Office photo)
Ohio Governor's Office, Press Release

On Friday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine joined Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz and Shawnee leaders to celebrate the grand opening of Ohio's 76th state park, Great Council State Park near Xenia.

Great Council State Park is located along U.S. Route 68 on the site of the historic seat of the 16th-century Shawnee village Old Chillicothe, which later became known as Oldtown. The site is regarded as a cherished reminder of Ohio's Shawnee history and pioneer past.  

Governor and first lady DeWine, originally from nearby Yellow Springs, grew up hearing stories about Oldtown and had a special interest in the site. Other than a small historical marker, the property did not reflect the area's historical significance, and a motel was eventually built on the land.

“We always thought that with such a rich and storied history, Ohio needed to do something big to bring attention to this area," said Governor DeWine. "Great Council State Park, at its heart, is the preservation of Ohio’s history and a tribute to the Shawnee people and the pioneers. These are the stories that need to be told.”

The new park offers visitors a glimpse of what Shawnee life looked like in the 1700s through a 12,000 square-foot interpretative center. Modeled after historic Shawnee longhouses, the multi-storied center features a gallery space, interactive exhibits, and a short film about the history of Old Chillicothe. The nearly 15-acre park also features a native plant prairie, a half-mile trail and scenic views of the Little Miami River.

"Out of all our 76 state parks, this is the first time we’ve told Ohio’s story from the perspective of the Native Americans, and we’re especially pleased to be able to do so at Great Council," said first lady DeWine. "Whether you’re walking the outdoor trail, exploring the interpretive center exhibits, or viewing the Little Miami River, you can feel the history that happened on this land." 

“I want people to be curious about the history of Great Council State Park and yearn to learn more about what was here in the past,” said Director Mertz. “We want visitors to ask questions about the Shawnee and their connection to nature in the 1700s. We want visitors to feel that strong link between our natural world back then and today.”

ODNR worked with the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and The Shawnee Tribe, on the park's design. Tribe members also served as consultants on many of the exhibits.

Great Council State Park highlights the stories of historical figures like Shawnee warrior and leader Tecumseh, frontiersman Daniel Boone and Blackfish, the chief of Old Chillicothe. The interpretative center offers visitors the opportunity to get their hands wet in a living stream, experience a 1770s interactive dwelling, see a frontiersman camp and enjoy a youth crafting area.

Work on Great Council State Park started in 2021 when ODNR purchased the Tecumseh Motel property along U.S. Route 68. In June 2022, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to commemorate the start of construction. Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the park's official opening.

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