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Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Rough economic waters could be cause of slow rental of Grand Lake boat docks

By Nancy Allen
State boat dock rentals are down significantly at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park.
"They are down as low as I have seen it since I started here in 2000, down enough that it's got me a little concerned," Assistant Park Manager Brian Miller told Lake Development Corporation (LDC) members on Monday. "Usually at this time of the year we have a waiting list to get docks, but now we have docks open with no waiting list."
LDC member Donna Grube asked if state dock rental is down due to water quality problems with the lake or the economy and gas prices.
Miller said there was no way to know for sure, but speculated it may be due to the lagging economy and high gas prices making a trip to the lake too expensive. Many of the state docks are rented by out of town people.
Miller said he checked with officials at Lake Loramie in Auglaize and Shelby counties and at Indian Lake in Logan County and they also are lagging in state boat dock rentals, but not to the degree as Grand Lake. He also contacted Division of Parks and Recreation officials in Columbus to see if it is a trend, but has not heard back from anyone yet.
State boat dock rental fees are used as a revenue stream to operate the local state park. Annual fees from the 110 state docks account for $33,000 of the local park's operating budget each year, which is a small percentage, Miller said.
Miller said the last time rental fees for state docks increased was two years ago.
People who had state boat docks rented last year and wanted to renew them for this year had until April 1 to do so. Private dock fees are not due to the state park office until May 1.
While dock rental is down, campground reservations are at a record high for this time of the year, Miller also told LDC members.
In other news, Miller said he has to make some changes to a boathouse planned to be built this spring or summer off West Bank Road after the state's engineering consultant estimated the project would cost $110,000. This is more than twice as much as the state park's estimate of $40,000.
Miller said some unexpected state construction requirements involving how the foundation should be built added the extra cost. He said his goal is to get the cost down to around $60,000. The nonprofit Lake Improvement Association, city of Celina, Division of Watercraft and the local state park has indicated they would contribute funds toward the project.
Initially state park officials said they wanted the boathouse to hold three watercraft from the Mercer County Sheriff's Office, the local state park and the state's Division of Watercraft.
Under fishing news, a few LDC members said bass and crappie fishing is picking up on the lake. Member Bob Grimm noted an angler was pulling some nice-sized crappies out of the channel at Behm's Restaurant on the lake's south side. Member and bass fisherman Jim Dabbelt said he has seen some nice bass coming out of the lake as well. Members also talked about the monster walleye anglers were catching in Beaver Creek below the West Bank spillway last week, including one that weighed more than 9 pounds.
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