Still Stepping Out After 100 Years
WHEELING — Since 1932, members of the Cleveland Hiking Club have visited Oglebay Park 10 times for an opportunity to traipse the hills and natural trails that wind through the park. The club of about 1,300 members is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with another visit this August when some of its members will incorporate three specific hikes that includes a tie in to Wheeling ‘s 250th birthday.
Stephanie Kumpar West and her husband, William Leo West, are members of the Cleveland Hiking Club. West was raised in Windsor Heights and is a graduate of Wellsburg High School, and her husband grew up in East Wheeling and graduated from Wheeling Central Catholic High School in 1956.
While the couple has worked and lived in Bay Village, a suburb of Cleveland, since 1975, they and their family of four children and six grandchildren have continued to visit the cabins at Oglebay every other year since 1980.
“We still have close relatives in Wheeling whom we visit often. We have great memories of the Ogden Newspapers Memorial Day weekend runs,” said West, a retired education administrator.
She recalled how as a young woman, she worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield, and had many friends in the Wheeling area, including Mary Jane Paden and Susan Bandi.
“We had a great time going to all of the restaurants and clubs — Ho Jo’s, The Three Gaynors, the Yacht Club, the Cork & Bottle and the Alpha,” she recalled.
Now as retirees, West and her husband have time to enjoy the travel opportunities that come with being members of the Cleveland Hiking Club. Only recently retired, Stephanie is a newer member of the hiking club with just under two years in. So when club member Ken Howard — with 47,000 hiking miles under his belt — was looking for someone to lead hikes at Oglebay this year, West agreed to take on the task. She was required, however, to have completed at least 100 miles of hiking to be a leader. Despite her short membership, she achieved the 100-mile requirement, and will serve as the leader next month at Oglebay.
“We are planning three hikes and we invite anyone in the area who wants to take part to do so,” West said. “We will hike the park and learn its history with its connection to Cleveland’s Colonel Earl Oglebay who bequeathed his summer home and 25-acre farm, now Oglebay, to the people of Wheeling in 1928. Then we’ll hike the woodland trails throughout the park. The final hike will be a tour through downtown Wheeling, Center Market area and the Heritage Trail.”
During the downtown hike, historic sites will be noted and pointed out to visitors. West has been coordinating the hiking weekend with Eriks Janelson from the Oglebay Foundation, and local historians Sean Duffy and Jeanne Feinstein.
The public is invited to join any or all of the three planned hikes. The hiking schedule is as follows:
Two Hikes on Saturday, Aug. 10
∫ Hike No, 1: Meet at 9 a.m. in front of the Mansion Museum at Oglebay. This will be a 5-mile hike on the all purpose trails, sidewalks and roads. It will include some hilly terrain.
∫ Hike No. 2: Meet at 3 p.m. at the Crispin Center near the outdoor swimming pool for a 7-mile hike of the woodland trails throughout the park.
Sunday, Aug. 11
∫ Hike No, 3: Meet at 10 a.m. at the Ohio County Public Library, 52 16th St. in Wheeling for an 8-mile hike in downtown Wheeling to include Heritage Trail along the Ohio River.
The hike will pass by prominent landmarks, such as West Virginia Independence Hall that housed West Virginia’s first state government in 1863. Hiking to the Mount Wood Overlook, hikers will enjoy magnificent views of the Ohio Valley. The hike also will take in the Victorian Row, cross the historic Suspension Bridge and find the location of Fort Henry. The library has granted permission to park in the lot. Parking also is free on downtown streets.
About the Cleveland Hiking Club. This information was gathered from the hiking club’s centennial memory book and the Western Reserve Historical Society archives:
The Cleveland Hiking Club was founded in 1919 during the national cultural and economic boom after the conclusion of World War I. It was at this time, President Teddy Roosevelt inspired his fellow American with his love of walking and his belief in the importance of exercise. Walking became a popular pastime throughout the country. So, Clevelanders, taking advantage of the newly created MetroPark system, began hiking for exercise and camaraderie.
Soon, the hiking day outings grew into weekend trips offering several hikes in neighboring cities and states.
Oglebay was of interest, perhaps because of its connection to Cleveland’s Oglebay-Burton family who donated Waddington Farms to the City of Wheeling. Today, the Cleveland Hiking Club, at 100, is the oldest hiking club in the nation.
The Cleveland Hiking Club took weekend trips to Oglebay as follows:
1. Decoration Day (Memorial Day) May 28-30, 1932, for a 7 a.m. bird hike led by a naturalist, followed by breakfast with campfire and a 10-mile hike through the park and surrounding countryside.
2. Labor Day, 1935, – nature study, golfing, tennis, horseback riding.
3. Decoration Day, May 29-31, 1937, – same as above with cost of $7.50
4. Decoration Day, May 28-30, 1938,- same as above with a program of entertainment $7.50.
5. Labor Day Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 1940, hiking, golfing, horseback riding, swimming, tennis, dancing, program of entertainment, cost of lodging and meals $6.50
6. Labor Day, 1941, same as above plus basketball and club program $6.50
7. Decoration Day, May 28-30,1949
8. Labor Day, Sept. 1-4, 1950, Lodging and transportation
9. Nov. 2-3, 1957
10. 1996 Bus trip
Janelson said Oglebay is excited to celebrate the Cleveland Hiking Club’s anniversary with hikes in the park. He said Oglebay’s trail specialist Todd Hager has been working with the group to coordinate the upcoming hikes.
“Todd is our trail specialist and as you know, Oglebay has worked the past couple of years to open up some of the trails … the Serpentine Trail and others … The past 10 trips they’ve made here shows Oglebay as a regional destination from the start,” Janelson said.
He said the two hikes planned in the park will “showcase the beauty of Oglebay.” Janelson said the key mission of Oglebay is to celebrate the recreational opportunities the park offers year round, especially the walking and hiking trails.
“We know the benefits of hiking and just walking in the woods, how it changes the brain chemistry. It makes you happier and healthier. That’s why the Oglebay Foundation supports the mission,” he added.