GREENVILLE — The Darke County Parks District welcomed the historic Bear’s Mill into its family of parks on Saturday afternoon.
The Friends of Bear’s Mill approached Darke County Parks two years ago about potentially obtaining ownership of the mill and the surrounding 38 acres. Since then, both parties worked together towards the transfer of property to the park district.
The transfer of ownership was made official on April 1 and approved by the Ohio Public Works Commission.
The previous owners, Terry and Julie Clark, owned the mill from 1979 to 2013, and made significant changes like adding a gallery, upgrading the shop, and preserving the overall condition of the mill while they were owners.
Former board member of Bear’s Mill, Thomas Menke, said without the Clarks, he doesn’t think the mill would still be standing.
“The Clark hippies came along in the ’70s, the flower kids, and they put their heart, soul, their blood, their tears, their equity into this thing,” he said. “After so many years of keeping things going, I think if they wouldn’t have been involved, this building may have been a feature down at King’s Island, probably a haunted mansion or something like that.”
In addition to mill tours, art classes and the mill store, the parks are now offering canoe and kayak rentals from the Bish Discovery Center and to canoe and kayak down the scenic Greenville Creek to Bears Mill.
Darke County Parks Director Roger Van Frank indicated one of the most important issues with this transfer is the actual preservation of the mill and mill race. Plans for the first phase of the mill race renovation are already underway.
Ohio State Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) said the mill will continue to be an asset to young children in the community, just as it was to her growing up in Darke County.
“It’s incredible to be here today,” she said. “I toured this place when I was just a little home-schooled girl and I remember walking out and thinking it was just incredible. Congratulations to you all, you’re really passing on the torch of ideas and imagination to kids, parents and the people of Darke County, so well done on your work.”
The mill is currently open Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Darke County Parks District asks that people wear masks to offer protection for everyone.