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Caledonia, a park of plenty, turns 100

June 14, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Caledonia State Park sits at the gateway to two of the East Coast's most famous mountain ranges - the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies.

The 1,125-acre park touches the northern-most section of the Blue Ridge and eastern-most tip of the Alleghenies. It's five miles east of Chambersburg at the intersection of U.S. 30 and Pa. 233.

Caledonia is the second oldest state park in Pennsylvania. It's celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, said Bruce McFate who has managed the park for the last 25 years.

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Pennsylvania's oldest state park, by just seven months, is the 27-acre Mont Alto State Park in Mont Alto, Pa., seven miles away from Caledonia. It falls under the same management umbrella, McFate said.

Mont Alto State Park was created May 20, 1902 and Caledonia came into being Dec. 31, 1902.

Pennsylvania's oldest park was Valley Forge until the state gave it to the National Park Service in 1976,2 McFate said.

The state early in the 20th century bought up thousands of acres of land that had been clear cut by commercial interests at cheap prices. The land was turned into state forests and parks.

About 60 acres of Caledonia State Park lies in Adams County, the rest in Franklin County, McFate said.

It's named for Thaddeus Stevens who owned a charcoal iron furnace in the 1830s on what is now park land. Stevens, who grew up in Caledonia County, Vt., was well-known in his time as an abolitionist and a statesman. He was also instrumental in establishing the state's public school system.

Confederates destroyed his iron works during the Civil War, according to a park history.

McFate said the park records about 330,000 visits a year, down from the 500,000 recorded during the early years of his administration.

The opening of municipal swimming pools in nearby Chambersburg and Waynesboro plus the fact that the state opened 13 new state parks in the early 1970s cut the number of people who visited Caledonia during those years, he said.

The park offers swimming in its 75- by 185-foot outdoor pool, an 18-hole golf course, picnic pavilions, 10 miles of hiking trails, including a one-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, 185 campsites, two cottages and four trout streams.

Totem Pole, a summer stock theater, is popular draw in the park.

Caledonia has 5 full-time employees and 25 who work seasonally.

Between 1907 and 1912, park land was leased to the old Chambersburg and Gettysburg Railway Co., which ran trolley loads of people in for dancing in pavilions and two long-since gone restaurants - the Log Cabin and the Graafenburg Inn.

There was no pool in those days, just a swimming hole.

Hunting is permitted in the park's two wooded areas, including one of old growth trees, McFate said.

The 100th anniversary celebration will be low-key. McFate plans to center it around the dedication of a $42,000 playground later this summer. Still under construction, the new playground is near the pool and will feature a network of eight sliding boards of varying heights for all age groups.

It will replace a couple of swing sets, he said.

"The park is 100 years old and it's never had a decent playground," he said.

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