Visiting the past at North Bingham County Historical Park

Joan Winston, a volunteer with the North Bingham County Historical Park, talks to students from Ucon Elementary School on Thursday morning. The Alridge School was moved to the park and renovated as an example of a one-room schoolhouse. The park also has a general store, covered wagon, sheepherders’ camp, log cabin and gold mine for visitors to see. The fourth graders from Karen Mackay and Jennifer Arnell’s classrooms visited the park as part of their studies on Idaho history.

Jacqi Moulton, a volunteer from the North Bingham County Historical Park, shows Ucon Elementary School students a sheepherders’ camp. The park located just west of Shelley has several buildings and settings that recreate aspects of pioneer life. Moulton said she’s seen an increase in visits from fourth-grade classes studying about Idaho history.

Hannah Fowler gets a chance to take the reins of a covered wagon at North Bingham County Historical Park on Thursday morning, with the help of volunteer Garry France.

Students from Ucon Elementary School try their hand at making biscuits (out of Play-Doh) Thursday morning with the help of Bonnie France, a volunteer with North Bingham County Historical Park.

SHELLEY — Rigby resident Jennifer Lawson and her daughter, Stacey, regularly explore the past by visiting the North Bingham County Historical Park near Shelley.

“My daughter and I love coming here,” Lawson said. “It’s a really cool place, with a lot of historical facts. This is kind of becoming an annual bonding activity for us.”

The park, located at 587 East 1250 North, opened in 1999. The facility offers visitors a glimpse into what life was like more than 100 years ago through its reconstructed buildings and historic attractions.

Devin Bodkins, the park’s caretaker since 2012, said it’s become a popular spot with families.

“The historical park is a really nice quiet area,” Bodkins said. “It’s a great place for a walk on a nice day and can offer kids a chance to get an introduction to some local history.”

The park sits on 5 acres and features historical buildings and sites.

According to the park’s website, teacher Mike Winston played a key role in establishing the facility.

Winston teaches history at Hobbs Middle School in Shelley. The land for the park was donated by Bingham County after Winston approached officials with his idea of creating a place where students could learn about Idaho’s past. The first project was restoring a one-room schoolhouse that was moved to the site.

Community members joined in the project by donating supplies and labor, the website said.

Today, there are six historical structures at the park, including the Alridge School, which was moved to the park in 1999 from its original location in the Cedar Creek area, 22 miles north of Shelley.

Other buildings, such as a re-created general store, are more recent additions. Volunteers erected the general store in 2003. There also is a re-creation of a gold-mine.

And children can participate in a simulated archaeological dig, where they use picks and brushes to uncover hidden objects.

Lawson and her 9-year-old daughter look forward to making regular trips to the park.

“We usually come here in the spring when it starts to warm up,” Lawson said. “It’s fun to watch Stacey (discover) what is here and learn about the area. Even though we have come here a lot, she doesn’t get tired of it.”

The time they spend at the park together is treasured by both mother and daughter.

“It really gives me and Stacey a chance to spend special time with each other,” Lawson said. “She really is starting to look forward to coming here. She started asking me a few weeks ago if it was warm enough to come out to the park.”

In addition to the park’s living history aspect, it also offers a baseball field, as well as camping and picnic areas.

“We get a wide range of people who come to the park,” Bodkins said. “There are several families that come and spend the day, we also get people who will utilize the camping facilities and come spend a weekend here, there really is something for everyone to do.”

For Stacey, the best part is rediscovering the area’s past.

“It’s really neat seeing the old stuff,” Stacey said. “The general store is really cool. They didn’t have a mall or anything back then, so that’s pretty much where you went for everything.”

Her mom also enjoys the park’s history.

“We’ve probably been coming here since Stacey was 5” Lawson said. “It’s fun to see her get excited about coming here. This really has become a place that we love.”

Nathan Davis can be reached at 542-6762.