Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mirrorscapes cleans up mysterious prehistoric Indian site

Park Director David Fey, left, and Mirrorscapes owner Chuck Miller, right

Tucked on the edge of the tiny village of Tarlton in central Ohio is 29-acres of old-growth oak, beech, maple and ash. On this picture-perfect April 22 morning the tender greenery of the forest floor is dotted with irregular patches of phlox, wild geranium, and other pastel spring bloomers. Red buds in full lavender colorize the banks of rocky, rippling Salt Creek, which divides the park into two sections, the entrance, a flat grassy area with parking spaces and a nearby shelter house, and the woodlands. Salt Creek is spanned by a suspension foot bridge erected by the WPA in 1936.

This tiny patch of old-growth woodland is the site of one of the most curious manmade prehistoric features in the United States, and perhaps the only one of its kind in the world — an earthen “X”-shaped Indian mound. Nobody’s been able to determine just how old it is, with some experts pegging it from 1,000 BCE and others anywhere from 200 BCE — 400 AD.

What is certain though is that the Tarlton Cross Mound needs continuing tender loving care if it’s to survive for future generations to marvel at its purpose and its construction. In addition to its shape (If you drew a circle around it, it would be about the size of a Little League infield.) it contains a natural and undiscovered herbicide that, apparently since its construction, keeps it vegetation free in spite of being surrounded by mature trees and the spectrum of shade-loving plants common to eastern hardwood forests.

Today the Cross Mound and the parkland leading up to it got a measure of TLC thanks to Chuck Miller, owner of Mirrorscapes LLC, specifically its 6-man crew. Based in nearby Lancaster, OH, Mirrorscapes was one of several hundred landscape and lawn service companies nationwide participating in today's PLANET Day of Service.

Miller said his team has been going full blast since winter broke in late March, and he viewed the chance to improve the park as an opportunity to give his guys something different to do, which they took to with youthful exuberance. The morning essentially turned into a picnic thanks as much to the perfect weather as to the food and drink Miller laid out for his guys on picnic tables at the park's shelter house.

Mid-morning and at the height of the property cleanup, David J. Fey, director of Fairfield County Parks stopped by to thank Miller and his guys. Fey’s a fascinating man in his own right. A retired high school biology teacher, for the past 11 years he’s essentially been a one-man parks staff in a county loaded with historical sites and 29 acres of soccer fields. As he walked up the footpath along the ridge line approaching the Cross Mound he shared the fascinating history and the geologic significance of the site. It became obvious that Fey takes the condition of all of the county's parks very personnel, and in particular Cross Mound, which he has had to close to vehicular parking because of lack of funds and senseless vandalism, including site-damaging traffic from 4-wheelers.

I could easily continue this narrative, and perhaps I’ve gone on too long as it is. But I just wanted to use this blog to plug this and other great PLANET Day of Service projects that we will be featuring in the May issue of Landscape Management magazine. You’re going to read some good stuff.

Obviously, since our editorial staff couldn't visit every one of the great PLANET-sponsored projects taking place today, feel free to email me and share your story. Include some digital images and we’ll either blog about here or post it on — Ron Hall (

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