R.W. Sidley Donates 26 acres to Thompson Township Park Commission
October 19, 2021 by Kathy McClure

New Access Road to Ledges Park to be Built Off Madison Road

A long-awaited land donation came to fruition for the Thompson Township Park Commission and they can hardly contain their excitement.

A long-awaited land donation came to fruition for the Thompson Township Park Commission and they can hardly contain their excitement.

R.W. Sidley, Inc., made an informal presentation of 26 acres it is donating to the parks at the south end of Thompson Ledges Township Park on Oct. 13 during the regular park commission meeting.

“It expands the western border of park land we already own, and extends to the south and believe it or not to the east,” park Commissioner Chuck Lausin said Monday.

He added in jest, “Our visitors have been trespassing on this Sidley property before this donation took place.”

Since 1933, R.W. Sidley, Inc. has been a valued commercial neighbor in Thompson Township, beginning in the mining business and realizing the benefit of high-quality silica and minerals found deep in the ground of mineral-rich Thompson. The company has diversified into concrete and precast production, commercial building and trucking.

For years, a pledge was made to the Thompson park commission that one day a portion of land would be given to the township in exchange for the cooperative spirit R.W. Sidley gave to mining.

R.W. Sidley agreed many years ago to help maintain the integrity of the town square by not mining too close to it, said park commission Chairman Ross McElligott, adding the town square sits on top of a unique shale formation and the park commission has been patiently waiting for the transfer.

Currently, the ballfields that were used by both Ledgemont schools and the recreation leagues sit on the first 500 feet close to Madison Road. This property was on loan to these players for all the years since the original agreement of transfer was promised, and that property will continue to belong to Sidley in case they decide to develop it someday, McElligott said.

The 26-acre donation will begin behind the ballfields and there is a plan for a road to be constructed north of the ballfields on Madison Road — state Route 528 — to allow park visitors access and parking, he said, adding this access will prove safer than the precarious entry at the top of Ledges hill on Thompson Road where it currently sits. That entrance will remain, however.

McElligott described the property as mostly wooded and some field land. Eventually, and as the budget allows, paths will be constructed so visitors can walk from the back of the ledges to the park building, which sits near the front entrance.

Lausin added there are many species of timber, including oak, hemlock, tulip and maple, as well as many species of plants and animals.

“It is a very unique environment and enhances what we already have,” he said.

Funds for work done at the Ledge Park have come from several different sources. The largest donation came from a trust provided by former resident Francis Spatz Leighton. Her wish was to provide and maintain land in nature for use by the residents, friends and children of the surrounding area. These funds have provided the largest improvements to the park, including construction of new walking trails and a lookout tower, an update of the tennis court, a rebuilding of the old outhouse and construction of steps to take visitors to the park’s lower level. Other funds come from the county and from the cell towers erected in Thompson Township.

Lausin said use of Ledge Park increased significantly during the pandemic as most state and county parks were closed.

Park commission members have done much of the work themselves. McElligott tallied over 600 volunteer hours for himself alone this past summer.

“We don’t work too fast,” he said. “But we are grateful to both Francis Spatz Leighton and R.W. Sidley, Inc. for contributions and gifts. They didn’t have to do this. Sidley has done so much for the township and for our park, and they often do not get enough credit.”