State money allocated to improve parks around Lake Erie

MARBLEHEAD -Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer has announced capital improvements are to be made on Kelleys Island, North Bass Island, South Bass Island and Middle Bass Island state parks.

Catawba Island and East Harbor state parks will receive improvements, as well.

The 2015-16 capital budget also allocated funding for renovating the Lonz Winery property on Middle Bass Island to allow for a public-private partnership.

The projects are to include additional full hookup campsites at Kelleys Island State Park; a mooring ball for more boating access, as well as primitive campsites and creative hiking trails at North Bass Island State Park; and campsites upgraded for electrical hookup at South Bass Island State Park.

In addition, the old park office and the restrooms are to be replaced with flush restrooms at Catawba Island State Park, and East Harbor State Park is to receive shower house upgrades and additional full hookup pull-through campsites.

“Visitors spend more than $1 billion annually in the Lake Erie Islands region,” said Larry Fletcher, executive director of Lake Erie Shores and Islands West, in a news release. “Many of our visitors tell us it’s the natural areas, beaches and campgrounds that bring them to us, which are all things that can be found in our state parks. Improvements will provide additional amenities for us to promote and therefore produce increased economic benefit.”

The latest capital budget has invested $6 million for renovating the Lonz Winery property to create a facility that will invite a public-private partnership. An open house opportunity is to be available at a later date for the public and potential investors.

The department already has completed environmental remediation for the property, including removing asbestos and correcting structural deficiencies.

State parks received an unprecedented $88.5 million for capital improvements to strengthen the infrastructure and modernize facilities in the most recent capital budget.

The capital improvement funding is not intended to expand the parks, but to serve as a step toward improving and updating them.