By Nancy Allen
Lake Improvement Association officials learned Saturday that $450,000 in state capital appropriations for shoreline protection for Grand Lake St. Marys has passed in both the state House of Representatives and Senate.
State Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, 77th district, and State Sen. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, 12th district, both pushed for the capital funds.
The LIA had written both state lawmakers several months ago requesting the funds.
The money would be used to place riprap (large rocks) around the shoreline of the lake and around some of the islands in the lake to keep it from eroding.
"I heard the bill is on the governor's desk ... We would probably see the money in a year or two," said Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton. "It should cut down on silt getting into the lake and the dredging we have to do." Morton said the work would be contracted out to a commercial firm and would not decrease the regular dredging work done on the lake annually.
Morton passed out a sheet outlining a prioritized 10-year shoreline protection plan with 25 separate sites. Assistant Park Manager Brian Miller said the $450,000 likely would cover just the first or first and second sites on the plan.
The first two sites are Prairie Creek Island and the Prairie Creek channel itself.
Though the funds are welcome, they won't begin to put a dent in all the shoreline work that needs to be done, said state park assistant manager Brian Miller.
"It will maybe finish one of the projects or two," Miller said. "Our plan with this is it would be an ongoing goal to keep getting these funds for the lake."
Miller said state park management worked with an ODNR planner to prioritize the sites on the shoreline protection plan.
" Prairie Creek Island is by far the largest island that is need of protection," Miller said. "The island is a fraction of the size it used to be. It erodes away a little every day, just like other areas around the lake do."
Morton reported that despite a move by some Ohio legislators to scuttle a proposal by ODNR to begin charging a $5 daily parking fee to use Ohio state parks, the measure is expected to be ap-proved. The new fee takes effect May 1.
State parks could collect $5 per vehicle for each daily parking pass. An annual pass, good for unlimited park visits for 12 months at all of Ohio's 74 state parks, would cost $25. Senior citizens would pay $4 and $20 and out of state visitors would pay $6 and $30 respectively. Three-fourths of the revenue from the fees would stay at the park where the pass was purchased. Forty-four other state parks systems in the United States already charge similar parking fees.
The fees would only be charged for vehicles entering parks, not those who bicycle or walk in.
Legislators last week introduced Senate Bill 47, which would eliminate ODNR's ability to charge parking fees, he said. News reports showed that legislators say ODNR's division of parks should make more cuts instead of enacting the parking pass system.
"It (parking fee) is needed in the next two years, especially to keep the parks going," Morton said Saturday.
The division has suffered deep cuts over the last five years due to cutbacks in state funding. The park system responded with significant reductions in staff, maintenance and visitor services. In 2000, Ohio State Parks employed 640 full-time employees, but trimmed that number to 490 by 2004. State park manager positions also have been cut so that managers share duties at more than one park.
Morton also repeated a request for volunteers or groups to help pick up twigs on state park land. The twigs were brought down by last month's ice storm.
Morton said state park workers have removed the larger limbs, but thousands of smaller ones that need to be picked up by hand remain. Much of the duties during this year's annual lake cleanup day on April 23 will focus on picking up limbs, Morton said.
The lake level is at about seven inches above normal pool, he said.
The next meeting of the LIA's Lake Restoration Committee is 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Celina Moose Lodge.