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Editorial: Will the State Park Be Good for Middle Bass Island?

September 6, 2001

No attention has been drawn to the fact that with the state turning the old Lonz Winery property and the adjacent marina into a state park, the future of the island infrastructure will be determined by state actions. It is likely that never in Ohio history has the development of a state park held such positive and negative possibilities for development of a community. But does the state care at all about the residents and its impact on them?

When the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) presented its draft master plan for the Middle Bass Island State Park at the town hall on July 21, several hundred people turned out for a wonderful presentation and discussion. The plans were well received. The planning, enthusiasm, professionalism and willingness of the ODNR staff to accept islander input were outstanding. Everyone thinks they are doing a great job, and the general spirit of cooperation was great.

But ODNR is just beginning to understand that it has some unique responsibilities on Middle Bass. By taking over the Lonz property and marina and turning it into a state park, it is explicitly taking over core island infrastructure, of great importance to current and future islanders, that has been in private hands for over 150 years. ODNRís core charter on Middle Bass is to run a state park, and not to help islanders, and in this case that charter should be adapted to show some flexibility.

Having a state park take up most of the property near the main dock means that we will never have a build-up of cafes, unique restaurants, shops and other businesses near the dock, and probably not anywhere else on the island. Most island landowners, the author included, donít really want that kind of development. But it will keep down real estate prices and demand. Thereís a tendency to think that the state park will generally be good for the island, and to accept it as a better future, but itís strange that no one seems to have bothered to consider that a state agency, with no direct charter to do anything good for islanders, is taking control of those parts of the island that will affect the islanders. While the state will be providing a number of wonderful facilities within the park, it will also have the side effect of limiting development nearby.

I was shocked to hear that one of the stateís first goals with the Lonz marina is to add more transient slips for boats over 26 feet in length, especially without adding more seasonal slips. Why is the state doing this? Well, it turns that that there is a federal program providing funds for building such slips. How about seasonal slips for island residents, which have always been in short supply because of the lack of a large natural harbor on the island? Well, the state says that even if it acquires the adjacent Roeschís marina and expands all the marina space, it wonít even guarantee seasonal slips for all islanders who have them today. A state park, according to the state, will supply lots of transient slips and will continue some seasonal slips, but does not seem to have any real responsibilities with regard to the islanders.

This seems absurd for a number of reasons:

bulletIslanders need access to their boats just as much as visitors do. Those of us who spend a lot of time on the island in the spring and fall have to use our own boats heavily for errands and basic transportation because the Sonny-S isnít running, the Miller Ferry is on a limited schedule, and the General Store has less than usual.
bulletBecause of the lack of a natural harbor, islanders have depended heavily on the Middle Bass Island Yacht Club and the adjacent Roeschís Marina for seasonal slips. There simply isnít any other good place to have them, except for members of the private Burgundy Bay community. And there have never been enough slips.
bulletThe transient slips are used heavily only 6-10 weekends a year, and are mostly empty the rest of the year.
bulletWhen the transient slips are used heavily, it is mostly as overflow slips for the Put-in-Bay harbor. The boats are parked at Middle Bass, and the occupants spend their time at Put-in-Bay.

So unless the state shows sensitivity to islandersí needs we will have the following situation:

bulletAn increasing island population with no place for seasonal boat slips for new residents, and probably some loss of slips for current residents.
bulletMore transient slips for visitors to Put-in-Bay. I.e., more slips that arenít used either frequently or for people visiting Middle Bass.
bulletNo place, ever, near the main dock for new private restaurants, cafes, shops and other businesses.

On an island, seasonal slips are the lifeblood of the island, and not just frivolous gratuities to be handed out by lottery to people who donít need them. If there were any place other than the state park marina area for seasonal slips, I wouldnít worry about the state choking off the islanders. But under the circumstances we have to be concerned.

Iím not criticizing any of the ODNR and other state employees planning the state park. They have really been doing a great job, and have clearly been developing a better understanding of the needs of the residents.

Iím just trying to draw attention to the fact that Middle Bass Island needs help from the state that in a form that is not the clear responsibility of the ODNR or other park planners. Someone needs to have more responsibility to look out for the interests and needs of the residents. Will someone stand up and accept that responsibility?

                                                Your Webmaster

(Note: This is the first editorial of any sort on this site, and also the first time that the webmaster has expressed a personal opinion, albeit one backed up by his wife and several other islanders he has spoken with. In the general spirit of editorials, other opinions are welcome, and will be most likely be published although we do reserve the right to limit or edit published responses. Simultaneously with publication, I sent notices to several key contacts of mine at ODNR and told them I would revise the editorial if there was anything they took offense with. However, any opinions will offend someone, so I expect some debate on the topic, and look forward to it. The whole purpose of this editorial is to start some debate!)

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Revised: 01 Apr 2010 20:19:13 .