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Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Primp my park

By Janie Southard

Aaron Brooks, Coldwater, is one of the state park's two full-time patrol officer. . .

ST. MARYS - Spring cleanup at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park is in full swing as the park staff prepare for the 2007 season, which could see more than 1 million visitors.
"We're shooting for April 1 to have most of the basics ready to open," said Assistant Park Manager Brian Miller, who listed several annual projects already underway: getting picnic tables ready and in place, placing the floating docks along East Bank, cleaning all restroom facilities, picking up winter debris, among others.  
The local state park's baseline budget is $735,000 for this fiscal year, which includes more than 81 percent in personnel costs, according to Miller.
With nearly 600 park and campground acres, 35 buildings, 100 docks and 52 miles of shoreline to take care of, the park's 13 full-time employees and a dozen or so seasonal workers are on the move and will remain in motion for the next several months.
"Once we begin mowing, probably in another couple weeks, we'll be mowing somewhere on the grounds all the time," Miller said, adding the first several weeks are a challenge until the full seasonal crew of primarily college kids is on board. He estimated park crews mow more than 100 acres.
He said quite a few volunteers help with cleanup whenever they happen to be at the park.
"There's a retired lady that lives nearby who routinely picks up sticks and stacks them at the base of the trees, so we can just come in and gather the piles. It's a big help to us," he said.
Cleanup in the campgrounds is always a priority. A new water line is being installed to replace the 30-plus-year-old line that has required many repairs. Funding for this $300,000 project is via capital improvement money from the state.
"The old system was galvanized steel, and we've spent a lot in repairs over the years. The new system is plastic, which should require much less maintenance," Miller said as he gave the newspaper a driving tour through the campgrounds and East Bank Park last week.
The campground buildings were built in the 1960s with updates like siding and windows added along the way. The shower houses are a main focus and take at least a full day each to get ready for the season.
Restrooms throughout the park are another priority. The commodes are actually disassembled at the end of the season and, thus, need to be put back together in the spring. Many winter visitors and regulars have wondered why the restrooms are not open year-round.
"They were just not built for year-round use. Since there's no heat there, the plumbing would freeze," Miller said.
The 46 miles of roadway within the park are state roads and, as such, all highway rules apply, including the authority of the park's patrolmen. Visitors operating a vehicle in the park can get traffic tickets for the same violations as on any state roadway.
Repair of potholes is on schedule for next week provided materials are available, Miller said.
"(Ohio Department of Transportation) helps us maintain most of the roads, but we'll be filling potholes ourselves," he added.
Perhaps the main reason for that the east side of the reservoir originally terminated at the very edge of state Route 364. The entire East Bank was filled in order to build the park, which makes for a less solid base. Potholes will most probably always dimple the roads.
"The hot asphalt plants aren't open yet. We've tried cold asphalt, and it didn't work very well. We're looking into a new material this year that has a lot of promise," Miller said.
Miller said the park welcomes the help of any volunteers. Like the retired lady who piles sticks beneath the trees, there are many others who help out.
"We don't even know who they are, but we sure appreciate their help," he said.
Park cleanup day is scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon April 28.
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