Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer announced Thursday, June 5, that capital improvements will be made on Kelleys Island, North Bass Island, South Bass Island and Middle Bass Island state parks. Catawba Island and East Harbor state parks will also be receiving improvements. The 2015-2016 capital budget also allocated funding for renovating the Lonz Winery property on Middle Bass Island to allow for public-private partnership.
“We always want to provide Ohioans more opportunities to get out and enjoy Lake Erie and our island state parks,” said Zehringer. “These projects will improve the experience of our visitors and help transform the Lonz Winery property into a destination that will benefit the residents and local businesses.”
The upcoming projects include:
• Kelleys Island State Park will receive additional full hookup campsites.
• North Bass Island State Park will receive a mooring ball for more boating access, as well as primitive campsites and creative hiking trails.
• South Bass Island State Park will have campsites upgraded for electrical hookup.
• Catawba Island State Park will remove the old park office and the bathrooms will be replaced with a new flush restroom facility.
• East Harbor State Park will receive shower house upgrades and additional full hookup pull-through campsites.
“Visitors spend more than $1 billion annually in the Lake Erie Island region,” said Larry Fletcher, executive director of Lake Erie Shores and Islands West. “Many of our visitors tell us it’s the natural areas, beaches and campgrounds that bring them to us, which are all things that can be found in our state parks. Improvements such as those mentioned will provide additional amenities for us to promote and therefore produce increased economic benefit.”
The latest capital budget has invested $6 million specifically for renovating the Lonz Winery property to create a facility that will invite a public-private partnership. An open house opportunity will be available at a later date for the public as well as for potential investors. The department has already completed environmental remediation for the property, such as removing asbestos and correcting structural deficiencies.
The Ohio State Parks capital improvement projects, and others like them around the state, are made possible through the support of Governor John Kasich, Senate President Keith Faber and the Ohio General Assembly. Ohio State Parks received an unprecedented $88.5 million for capital improvements to strengthen the infrastructure and modernize facilities in the most recent capital budget.
The capital improvement funding is not intended to expand Ohio State Parks, but to serve as a step towards improving and updating state parks for the enjoyment of every visitor. The department is committed to identifying the most immediate needs of Ohio State Parks and will continue to announce projects while moving through this process.
To assist in identifying key projects, ODNR has launched a website to allow people to submit their ideas for improvements within the Ohio State Parks system. By visiting parks.ohiodnr.gov/improvements, people can fill out a survey to suggest improvements at their favorite state parks. To date, the department has received more than 3,800 completed surveys.
Ohio is proud to be one of only seven states in the nation where admission to state parks is free. Last year, 2.3 million people spend at least one night in an Ohio State Park campground, cottage, cabin or lodge. By continuing to improve our state parks system, we have the opportunity to showcase our facilities and draw more tourism dollars into Ohio.