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02-04-03: Local snowmobile accidents show need for Breathalyzer
The Daily Standard
    Grand Lake St. Marys Park Manager Craig Morton said park officials are seeking outside funding to help purchase a portable Breathalyzer kit to use during incidents where alcohol is suspected.
    The Breathalyzer would be administered by park rangers who suspect alcohol is involved in an incident on state park land or on the lake.
    Though a state park ranger first had the idea last summer to get the kit, the usefulness of such a kit has been underscored recently due to a string of snowmobile accidents on the lake, Morton told Lake Development Corporation members who met Monday.
    Morton said a rebuilt kit would cost around $350 while a new one would be about $550. He said the state park lacks funds to purchase a kit due to recent statewide budget cuts that have affected the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation.
    Three snowmobile accidents on the lake in January injured three people, one of them critically. A fourth snowmobile-related incident left two snowmobiles and an all-terrain vehicle stuck in a soft spot in the ice. No one was injured in that incident.
    "There have been four accidents in the last couple of weeks, and in three out of the four alcohol was either proven or strongly suspected," Morton said.
    Morton said the portable Breathalyzer kit could fit in a shirt pocket and legally would be equivalent to field sobriety testing, which involves walking and other tests that require coordination and concentration.
    Morton cautioned snowmobilers not to drink and drive and to travel in groups, tell someone where they are going before they leave and carry some type of communication such as a cell phone or radio.
    Morton said a park ranger is researching snowmobiling regulations to get state park staff and the public updated on where snowmobiles are permitted to travel and other rules. Alcohol is not permitted on any state land while operating any type of vehicle, he said.
    Morton reported that the lake's level is seven inches below normal. He also announced that the state park has purchased a 72-inch dredge bucket attachment for the park's track hoe, which is used for dredging, and a five-blade cutter head for the St. Marys dredge.
    Wildlife Summit IV will be held March 20 at Wright State University-Lake Campus for those interested in wildlife issues in Auglaize and Mercer counties, reported LDC member and summit organizer Frank Murray. The event will be sponsored by the LDC, Division of Wildlife and Wright State University-Lake Campus.
    Wildlife officials from southwest Ohio, experts in soil and water conservation, wildlife preservation officials and others are invited to the informational meeting every other year.
    Past summits have lead to walleye stocking in the lake and the reintroduction of wild turkeys in the area.
    Registration will be held at 9 a.m. and the summit will start at 10 a.m. in the Lake Campus auditorium, Murray said.
    A meeting attended by LDC lodge committee members, state officials and Collaborative Inc., a Toledo firm hired to create a study to determine the feasibility of building a lodge on Grand Lake St. Marys, was held Jan. 24. LDC member Owen Hall said the next meeting will be March 3.
    The study is being funded mostly by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Also contributing money for the study are the LDC and the Lake Campus. The study would become the state model for determining the feasibility of building lodges in Ohio.
    The private Lake Development Corporation and Lake Campus officials in 1999 unveiled a plan to build a proposed $12.4 million lakefront lodge and boat marina on a 15-acre site just west of the Lake Campus. Lodge promoters also have proposed the state pay for the lodge. A partnership with state officials to build and operate the lodge also has been discussed. The LDC has identified several possible sites around the lake for a lodge, which also could be used as a resort and conference facility to draw people in the off months in November through March.
    The 2003 officers for the LDC are President Jim Dabbelt, Vice President Bud Preston, Secretary Vicki Waterman and Treasurer Milt Miller.
    Four LDC committees also were announced during the meeting. On the master plan committee are Nick Van Schoyck, Todd Fleagle, Tom Knapke and Vicki Waterman. On the legislative committee are Rick Bachelor, Owen Hall and Tom Knapke. On the development issues committee are Julie Miller, Greg Schumm, Owen Hall and Don Davis. On the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed committee are Bud Preston and Don Davis.


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