Officials with Preservation Parks of Delaware County hope a new Ice Age exhibit leads to mammoth fun for park visitors.

The county's parks system at 7 p.m. Friday, May 26, will reopen the visitors center at Deer Haven Park off Liberty Road in Liberty Township. The center closed for a week to welcome a new visitor: a replica of a mastodon skeleton recovered at the Burning Tree Golf Course south of Newark in 1989.

Rich Niccum, education services manager for the district, said the county's new exhibit features a rare chance to see a model of one of the most-complete mastodon skeletons close to home.

"I don't believe it's been here in Delaware County before," he said. "I think this may be a first."

Niccum said other replicas that will be featured at Deer Haven and Shale Hollow parks include a giant-beaver lodge, a glacier and more prehistoric animals. He said the exhibit is the biggest he's worked on in six years with the parks system.

"It was an opportunity for us to really have a big splash this summer (and) try something different we haven't tried before," he said.

Preservation Parks spokeswoman Sue Hagan said the two parks will be open for extended hours during the exhibit, which will run through the end of October.

Visitors can pick up booklets at either park that will help them identify silhouettes of Ice Age animals placed at the system's parks.

"If they find all five, they get a little giveaway," Hagan said.

Visitors can watch a screening of the animated film "Ice Age" at 9:30 p.m. May 26 at Deer Haven Park. The movie's sequels will be shown later this summer at the same site.

Dale Gnidovec, curator of Ohio State University's Orton Geological Museum, will bring Ice Age artifacts to Shale Hollow Park between noon and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 27. Deer Haven Park will host staff from OSU's Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center for glacier-related activities from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 28.

Niccum said park workers also have created a "dig site" for children outside Deer Haven's visitors center.

Hagan said the Ice Age exhibit is fitting because so much of central Ohio's geography owes a debt to the era.

According to the Ohio History Connection, remnants of the Pleistocene Ice Age's glaciers -- from river valleys to gravel deposits -- remain visible in the state.

"Everything you see around here was directly influenced by that last Ice Age," she said.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

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