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North Hills Monthly

New Book Highlights Moraine State Park History

Jul 01, 2017 10:30PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

If you’ve ever wondered how Moraine State Park in Butler County got its name, you’d have to stretch well back in time to when glaciers dotted the landscape. A moraine is material that is transported by a glacier and then deposited, creating landforms.

Today, however, the glaciers are gone and in its place is the gem of the park: Lake Arthur, an 8-mile long, manmade lake covering 3,225 acres and boasting 42 miles of shoreline. The entire park covers 16,725 acres and is replete with hiking and biking trails as well as boating opportunities.

This March, as part of its modern history series, Arcadia Publishing released a 96-page book chronicling the park’s history written by Portersville resident and dedicated McConnell’s Mill volunteer, Polly Shaw, entitled simply, Moraine State Park.

Shaw is a font of knowledge when it comes to the park that was dedicated on May 23, 1970. But before the park could happen, there were three challenges that had to be overcome–including acquiring the land.

Though Dr. Frank Preston, founder of the Western PA Conservancy, donated several hundred acres, more was needed. At the time, the land was being farmed and the residents, who lived in an area called the Village of Isle, had to be bought out and relocated.

“The personal upheaval was difficult,” said Shaw.

The second obstacle was the reclamation of the land, which had been scarred by mining and oil. Many oil wells that were on the prospective site of Lake Arthur were uncapped and the mines were not closed, so locating each of these sites was a major undertaking.

The third obstacle was relocating the highways. “At the time, Rt. 422 was a three-lane highway that had just been approved in 1950, but it had to be rerouted or it would have run right through the lake,” said Shaw. Surprisingly, officials agreed on a six-mile bypass.

“Imagine the influence these people had to get the state to agree to fund a four-lane highway,” marveled Shaw.

And while Interstate 79 was not yet built, it was planned, so the group had to convince the state to both relocate and resurvey the highway. New bridges also had to be rebuilt around Rt. 528. “It was a major, major event to create the park,” said Shaw.

The biggest surprise that Shaw discovered during the research phase of her book was learning about the intricate process by which Lake Arthur’s dam was constructed. “The dam is hard to see, and for many years, I didn’t even know where it was,” she said.

The dam is 55 feet tall and almost 2,000 feet long, and there are photos in the book showing the entire process of how it was constructed.

Shaw’s book can be purchased at local bookstores, through Amazon, or through the publisher ( She also donates copies to local libraries.