By Nancy Allen
Private developers have expressed interest in building some sort of accommodations on Grand Lake St. Marys, said Julie Miller, chairwoman of a committee looking to build a lodge or resort somewhere around the lake.
Miller told members of the Lake Development Corporation meeting Monday that "a lot" of developers have showed interest.
Her announcement comes after preliminary results of a state study on where a lodge could be built showed dim hope for Grand Lake St. Marys. Also, Ohio division of parks representatives have indicated any future lodges built in Ohio would likely have to be privately-funded in light of the strained statewide budget situation.
The state already completed the first two phases of a three-part study to determine lodge feasibility throughout the entire state. The third phase, which will specifically look at putting a lodge on Grand Lake St. Marys, begins June 16.
Though results of the first two phases cast little hope that a lodge would be economically feasible locally, it will be this third and final phase that will be the determining factor, Miller said. "No decision has been made and the real work is going to start on June 16, the kickoff of the study," Miller said. "This part of the study is going to give us credit for some of the amenities that were not focused on in the first two phases. This is where the uniqueness of the area will be looked at."
The study will help develop a statewide model to determine the feasibility of building lodges at Ohio's 74 state parks.
Grand Lake scored lowest on the study in its available state land base and nearby metropolitan areas, which travelers like to have when they go on vacation. Two of the model criteria indicated an area for a lodge should have at least a 1,700-acre state land base and an 800-acre water surface. Grand Lake scored high on the water surface criteria but low on the state land base criteria. The 13,500-acre lake has just 591 acres of land around it that is owned by the state park.
Currently Ohio has nine lodges, seven that were built by the state, one that was purchased by the state and one at Geneva State Park that just opened in Ashtabula County and was built by that county on state land. This is the first such partnership like this in Ohio and state officials believe it will serve as a role model for future lodges, said Dan West, chief or ODNR's Division of Parks and Recreation.