York Town Square

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On York County parks, Susquehannocks and carved river rocks

The Indian Steps Museum, seen here in 2006, sits near the Susquehanna River in Lower Chanceford Township. The York County Conservation Society-run museum houses York County’s most comprehensive exhibits about the American Indians. For details, call the museum at 717-862-3948. Background posts: 400 years ago, John Smith explored Chesapeake Bay, White Woman of the Genessee captured 250 years ago in York County and John Smith gave Susquehannocks their name.

Controversy over Lauxmont and Highpoint land brings York County’s rich American Indian heritage into the spotlight.
Part of the Lauxmont land now in public hands covers the site of a Susquehannock Indian village.
A museum or some other interpretive center near the village would add to the scant offerings in York County devoted to Indian history… .

The grounds of Indian Steps Museum, background, sustained storm damage several years ago.
I say that knowing that Indian Steps Museum is designed to serve that purpose. The problem is that it’s off the beaten path and largely out of public consciousness.
A center at the Lauxmont-Long Level location that coordinates its presentations with Indian Steps would seem to be accessible to more people. Part of that center could explore an under-presented part of local American Indian life – the petroglyphs, rock carvings in the Susquehanna River.
I explore some of these themes in the following York Sunday News column (10/19/08):

A few years ago, the American dream and the American pastime battled in York.
And the fight took place in a swamp, the section of the city called “The Swamp.”
Filmmaker and York resident Brian Plow’s recently premiered documentary “Home” explores the skirmish between these American ideals leading up to construction of Sovereign Bank Stadium.
The provocative film ruminated on two words viewed with contempt around York County.
Eminent domain.
* * *
The documentary set up the positions of the proposed ballpark’s backers and foes —
Stadium proponents: Unless we do something with the downtown, we’re going to die on the vine.
Stadium opponents: When is it ever fair to take a person’s home?
The film pushed and pulled viewers between those two positions, without firmly landing in either dugout.
Many York countians have forgotten that the stadium project meant the removal of 23 properties, including 15 homes.
They’ve forgotten, in part, because independent league baseball is winning big after the second inning in York.
The story is in the stats: Average attendance was up by about 600 fans a game for the season that just ended compared to the stadium’s first season. The 4,350 fans who attended on average put the York Revolution in the upper attendance tier of the Atlantic League.
The game is far from over, of course. Stadium officials are just now placing the ballpark into play between games and seasons. A kickball tournament, Crop Walk and York High Class of ’66 reunion are recent steps toward maximizing the ballpark’s value in the community.
Stadium officials should not stop until the stadium becomes for York what the York Expo Center is for York County.
* * *
Those backing a park at Lauxmont land should note Sovereign Bank Stadium’s success story.
That story teaches a lesson about how to shift the $23 million York County-paid legal settlement from the spotlight to the bench.
Make the parks on Lauxmont and nearby Highpoint so captivating that visiting them becomes a vital part of the lives of York countians.
For example, present a quality museum or park commemorating the Susquehannocks, the American Indian tribe whose village occupied the former Lauxmont property that is now in public domain.
One can envision schools sending busloads of students to such an attraction.
The park could work in tandem with Indian Steps Museum. That southeastern York County museum, filled with Indian artifacts, is so remote that it will never attract appropriate attention to the people who lived in York County before Europeans crossed the Susquehanna River in 1730.
Build it at Lauxmont, make it good and people will come.
As Brian Plow’s film insightfully reminds us, opposition to Sovereign Bank Stadium was intense. And eminent domain and subsequent construction changed the lives of many well-meaning neighborhood residents.
But the Revs and Sovereign Bank Stadium have quashed one source of opposition explored in the film — that the stadium was built for the suits in the skyboxes.
Those attending even one Revs’ game know that more beer is spilled than martinis when a foul line drive scatters fans.
The Revs experience is patently family-night-out at the ballpark.
And someday, it can be so at Lauxmont park.