Mystic Mountain Training Center is located approximately 20 miles south of Erie, Pennsylvania, between Waterford and Cambridge Springs just off Route 19 on Mystic Road.The property has quite a colorful history.During the William Penn Land Grants, it was part of an extensive land holding by the Waterhouse family.As the government began to tax land, the people were land rich and money poor and consequently much of the farm was sold off to pay the tax man.Descendents of the original Waterhouse family still own the farm adjacent to the Training Center.
During the Roaring 20’s, summer months brought city dwellers out to enjoy the small cabins that were scattered all along French Creek.At the foot of the Training Center’s driveway was located the famous Red Slipper Lounge.Tall tales are told of its famous dance floor and wild times during Prohibition.The business eventually closed and sat idle for many years.It was purchased in the 1980’s and resumed business as Michael Vega’s Mystic Restaurant. Poor management led to a tax foreclosure sale and once again the building fell into disrepair until a snow load took it down in the winter of 2006.
In the 1950’s the property that is now Mystic Mountain Training Center was developed into Camp Mystic, the only ski slope in the area.The facility boasted a ski hill complete with a tow rope, along with a tobogganing and sledding hill and ice skating on the pond.There was a small rustic building with a wood burner that served as the ski lodge.Changing times and competition from Peek’nPeek and Mountain View ski areas eventually led to the closing of Camp Mystic sometime in the 1960’s.The lodge burnt down and the property sat unused for nearly 20 years.
The Middle Years In the 1980’s a real estate developer purchased the property and subdivided it into three parcels.By the time the Bill and Denise Olczak discovered the property in 1981, the only remaining parcel was the ski slope.With dreams of building a home and a family, the couple purchased the remaining 40 acres.Pregnant with their first child, the couple moved a mobile home onto the property and built a barn to hold their growing collection of building supplies.After four years of owner design and construction, in 1985 the family moved into their new passive solar home. The barn became home to a rescued collection of goats and chickens.
And so the couple’s dream of building their own home and raising a family in the country became a reality.
Horses, Horses, Horses Twenty years is a long time to wait for a dream to come true, but finally Denise was able to purchase her first horse.Soon she was boarding two others and had added four more to their herd.In 1995 the Olczaks discovered the American Bashkir Curly breed of horse and as they say the rest is history.First to arrive was Mystic’s Mariah from a breeder in Pennsylvania.Mariah came pregnant and the Olczak’s breeding stallion Mystic’s Miracle was born in 1996.This was followed with Mariah being bred to a stallion in Kentucky and a year later Mystic’s Marble Delight made her appearance.In 1997 the family traveled to Alberta, Canada, and came home with four more Curlies, two of them pregnant.In a very short period of time the herd had grown to nearly 20 horses with the Olczak’s becoming Pennsylvania’s largest breeder of American Bashkir Curly horses.In was not uncommon to see outside mares in from the tri-state area.Horses purchased from the Olczaks are scattered all over the United States.Their Curly horses were the first to ever be shown at the Pennsylvania State 4-H Horse Show.
Mystic Mountain Training Center Is Born The Training Center began to take shape in 1999 with the construction of a large garage.Bill had planned to use the upstairs as a wood working shop, but instead it was almost immediately turned into an indoor archery range.Classes in archery quickly formed and took place in conjunction with beginner riding lessons at the adjacent outdoor arena.
Mystic Mountain Training Center was officially born in 2001 as a nonprofit corporation, with the establishment of a Board of Directors. The Center sits on top of the Olczak farm. What a ride it has been over the years!!
Great Adventure Day Camp Begins In 2001 we kicked off our first summer of The Great Adventure Day Camp with a full schedule of equestrian, shooting sports, drama, puppets and teaching. Every year since then the property comes alive in June and July with campers, teens, and adults.
From that original group of six teen helpers, an Extraordinary Teen Leadership Development Program has developed. The teen volunteer staff is responsible for the creation and implementation of the entire summer camp program.It is the responsibility of the adult volunteers to keep things on track and safe.The Great Adventure Day Camp has blossomed into three different age group camps that include high adventure opportunities and fine art activities.
New Riding Arena and Big Top Tent After a spring of terrible rains causing a blown out pond embankment disaster, blessings came with are-contoured pond bank, a full pond of water and the construction of a new riding arena.This allowed the summer camp program to nearly double in size.Use of a huge circus style tent proved to be a great addition as the Friday night Parent and Friends Awards Program could all be centered in the arena and pond area.We suddenly had room to expand!
Shooting Sports Program It wasn’t long before a shooting sports program began to take shape. Various National Rifle Association grants were secured to purchase equipment and to help with the construction of a new education building and shooting range.NRA certified instructors teach courses in everything from pistol, rife, and personal protection to training of church security teams. Summer camps for children include air rifle and archery shooting lessons.Other classes are for adults only.
Outreaches and Home School Classes Over the years various outreaches for the campers have been conducted utilizing all of the seasons and holidays.Home school groups have utilized our facilities for teaching biology and chemistry labs as well as history, math and Spanish.
Day At A Horse Farm Various school groups discovered Mystic Mountain and out of that evolved A Day At A Horse Farm wherethe children are allowed to “get up close” with the horses.It is a day of fun and learning more about God’s wonderful creation…the horse.And because of the American Bashkir Curly breed’s hypo-allergenic tendency, many who previously could not be around horses….. can.
Youth Groups With the extensive education backgrounds of Denise and many of the other adult volunteers, a wide variety of seminars and workshops for both children and adults have taken place over the years.Youth groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and others come to participate in programs designed just for them, or to just use the facilities and plan their own agenda.
Housing In 2005 one of the original French Creek cabins was donated to Mystic Mountain to be used as teen staff housing.One of our teen staff took the task of orchestrating its move from French Creek to Mystic Mountain.Other volunteers have put on a new roof, completely gutted the interior and put in new wiring, insulation, drywall, and flooring.New bunk beds were constructed and a grant from Sam’s Club secured for new mattresses.Handmade quilts with matching sheets now cover the bunks. In 2008 two new RVs were purchased for additional housing.
Staff For the past eight years Mystic Mountain Training Center has been completely run by a dedicated and competent team of volunteers.There have been no paid employees.As it is evolving into a much larger operation of year round opportunities, it has become apparent that several full time paid staff is a necessity.It is our goal to be able to provide a full complement of programming in the areas of equestrian, shooting sports, water sports, fine arts and drama, environmental education, and basic education skills of math and reading.We feel that God has blessed us abundantly with resources and talents and it is our desire to use them to bring honor and glory to Him.We desire to not only serve our local rural population but to reach out to those in our cities and share life with them also.
In July of 2008 Denise Olczak and the Center’s Board of Directors said “yes” to the opportunity of explosive growth at Mystic Mountain Training Center.Since then we have been working with Penn State University’s Core Program, The Nonprofit Partnership, the Erie Small Business Alliance, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and Lake Erie College to begin charting the future course of Mystic Mountain.Alliances and collaborations are being developed with many of the local non-profit agencies in Erie County.Many individuals have stepped forward to become a member of various task force groups that have formed to investigate a wide range of topic areas concerning future growth.We have stepped into the water of obtaining a wide range of grants to further achieve our vision statement of “helping to build strong communities for children and families trough mentoring, discipleship, and teamwork”.
And as one famous radio announcer used to say, “stay tuned for………..the rest of the story”!