Oglebay Story, Part 4

Through the generosity of Courtney Burton, grandson of Earl Oglebay, a three-story fireproof wing was added to the south side of the Mansion Museum in 1966.  Much of the Oglebay memorabilia on display — portraits, genealogy, furniture, and photographs — were collected by Burton.  In 1978 the WPC dedicated the hilltop area, which includes the Mansion and gardens, as the Burton Center — to honor the Oglebay heir for his involvement in more than fifteen major building projects over the years.  Courtney Burton died in 1992.

In the 1960s and 70s the park commission took advantage of extensive federal grant programs, through the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR),  matched by trust fund assets, to experience a building boom.  Three of the first four BOR grants in West Virginia were awarded to the WPC, the largest going to build the Stone Clubhouse and Pool at Wheeling Park.  At Oglebay, grants were used for a much-needed maintenance service center and to purchase property to serve as a wildlife buffer zone on the south side of the resort.

The BOR grants program, titled the Land and Water Conservation Fund, was innovative for it created no new taxes (it was financed by proceeds from federal recreation areas, receipts from the sale of surplus property, and taxes from the sale of motorboat fuels).  The use of federal funds for local improvements was a significant departure for the federal government. It had not happened since Depression years.

Through a variety of funding sources and generous donations, several major building projects were planned and brought to fruition during this era.  Each was designed to enhance Oglebay’s potential as a competitive, comprehensive resort.  Construction on the Robert Trent Jones, Sr., course on the three hundred-acre Speidel property began in 1968.  The front nine opened in 1970 and the back nine in 1971.  The magnificent Wilson Lodge Byrd addition was planned in the 1970s and dedicated in 1980.

The Good Zoo at Oglebay, named in memory of Philip Mayer Good, opened in 1977 through the support of thousands of community residents.  The zoo’s mission is to educate and fascinate the public about the natural and physical sciences.  More recently, the zoo has expanded its efforts in conservation and research.  The thirty-acre facility, West Virginia’s only accredited zoo, is filled with interesting exhibits:  domestic, touchable animals; kangaroos and lorikeets at the Outback Exhibit; otters, zebras, rare red pandas, lemurs, ocelot, and endangered Spectacled Bears to name a few.  A wetlands exhibit houses bald eagles and crane, and an indoor Discovery Lab lets visitors interact with computer games, microscopes, dress-up stations, and an exhibit themed around the colors of animals.

A zoo visit can include a stop in the Benedum Natural Science Theater which offers LASERS, planetarium shows, and featured programs about nature, the earth, astronomy, and space exploration.  Zoo programs and camps for kids, pre-school through high school, provide both environmental and science learning experiences.  Through outreach programs, staff works with schools, libraries, and health, social, and youth agencies.  Believing that the Good Zoo offers the potential for life-long learning, the facility is now a training site for the West Virginia Certified Master Naturalist program.