Saturday, November 18, 2017 Elyria 51°



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I think that, as teenagers, most of us discovered Mohican State Park and the Mohican River Valley. If there's one place in Ohio that is all about accommodating group camping and outdoor fun, it's Mohican State Park in “The camp and canoe capital of the world!” But if you've been back to the park lately you might recall your teenaged memories and say, “Gee, it's like nothing's changed!” and that's because, pretty much, nothing HAS changed. So, when the Ohio Legislature recently announced it had allocated $88.5 million for capital improvements in the state parks, Mohican had it's hand up saying, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” like Arnold Horseshack!

On the list of improvements approved to be done are:

A new Nature Center (the current one shares space with the ice cream parlor)

Renovation of 25 cottages

A new (heated year round) shower house (currently closed in winter)

Renovation of the campground pool and adding a Kids' Splash Pad

Renovating restrooms (Remember that nasty pit toilet near the covered bridge? Upgrade!)

Adding additional full hookups to campsites

Replacing the lodge roof, and doing additional exterior repairs and renovation.

Overall, ODNR Director Jim Zehringer says about $5 million of upgrades will be made at Mohican. “We are committed to Ohio State Parks and understand that this money is not intended to expand the park system, but to serve as a step toward improving and updating our parks for the enjoyment of every visitor.” He added there's a particular focus on improvement and not so much expanding them. They got specific instructions from the Governor, “We're not building Taj Mahals here.” If there's one thing Ohio State Parks have had to be over the last thirty years, it's frugal. I've heard it again and again, this kind of renovation is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Ohio State Parks campers.

So, if you think that's a lot of money to throw at “a campsite”, think again! Speaking with Mohican-Loudonville Visitor's Bureau Director Georgia Kauffman, it's clear that any money we put into Mohican comes back in spades. “Last year we had over 300,000 visitors to the Mohican area, and over 50,000 of them sent the night!” That translates into $138 Million tourist dollars spent in Ashland County last year alone. According to Kauffman, people come to Mohican because of the State Park's great facilities there, and it's easy to see how this is a direct investment in Ohio's economy as well as the outdoor experience.

The decisions of where to spend the capital improvements fund are strongly influenced by park user surveys; in effect the campers themselves decide where and how to improve the campgrounds. Although somewhat embarrassing at times, Director Zehringer read directly from the camper's comment cards to over a hundred campers in explaining what improvements would be done adding, “And has there ever been anything uglier than that pool fence?” to a chuckling crowd in reference to a rusting 1960's era facility behind him. (It's being replaced.) So, if you want to have some input on what needs improvement at our parks, get on the ODNR web site and fill out that survey; it really works!

Talking with Park Manager Korre Boyer, he says the majority of the upgrades will begin after the rush of the busy summer season so as to cause visitors and campers the absolute minimum of inconvenience. I asked him about roads and the perpetual flooding that seems to come with spring rains in the area and he had another surprise to lay on me. By partnering with the Ohio Department of Transportation, there will be complete resurfacing of the parks roads, camping pads, and replacement of all the culverts, without biting into the State Parks fund! At the same time they'll be working on clearing the ditches and improving the drainage systems, “We think that will straight out eliminate a lot of those flooding problems!” he says.

I visited with a number of the campers at Mohican this Friday, in the rarefied company of ODNR Director Zehringer, and Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, while they got camper opinions, straight from the horse's mouth. One thing I kept hearing over and over was how glad the campers are that Ohio State Parks admission is still free, one of only seven states that can still say that. Maybe that's part of the reason why they're so popular with over 2.3 million people camping in one of our campgrounds, cabins or a state park lodge each year You won't be lonely, but you'll be in good company and in a beautiful and improving place! So pack the tent and GET OUTDOORS!

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