By Nancy Allen
The Parks Pride pass program that would have charged a parking fee to visitors of Ohio's 74 parks is on hold indefinitely, Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton told members of the Lake Development Corporation who met Monday.
The measure was to have gone into effect on May 1.
An Associated Press story last week said the park fee plan unraveled when top GOP lawmakers nixed Gov. Bob Taft's plan to impose the first-ever parking fee at Ohio parks.
Instead, lawmakers proposed tapping a state recycling fund to shore up parks, whose state funding has been cut drastically during the last five years. Fourty-four other parks in the United States already charge a user fee.
"I know the division had already spent some money making pipe safes that people could put their money in and we were to begin selling the passes by April 15 or 16, but now it's all on hold," Morton said. At larger parks, park officials had planned to erect manned stations where people would be stopped in their vehicles to pay the fee. Smaller parks were planning unmanned pipe safes that people would have put their money in to receive a parking stub. The passes were to cost $5 each visit or $25 for a yearlong pass.
Morton said he could provide no further information, but would pass it along as he becomes aware of it.
Morton also reported that construction of an approximately 15-acre spoil site to hold dredge material from the lake is almost complete at the southeast corner of Schroeder and Koehn Road in Auglaize County. In about two weeks state park officials plan to start pumping the dredge material from five channels into the site. The channels are located at the South Shore Acres and Breezewood residential areas and at Blue Heron Cove and the mouth of Little Chickasaw Creek.
State park workers also plan to dredge two channels at Bass Landing in Mercer County. The dredge material from those two channels will be deposited in a nearby spoil site on Kittle Road.
It was also reported that the lake's level is seven inches above normal pool.