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Funds reserved for Lake Erie Islands' state parks

Andy Ouriel • Jun 6, 2014 at 5:09 PM


Lakeside state parks surrounding Erie and Ottawa counties' coastlines received a big financial boost, banking stacks of cash for various improvements.

State officials on Thursday announced plans to direct at least $8 million in public funds for several upgrades at many park properties. Officials disclosed details about the plans at the Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.

Among the most notable plans from this pot of money: A $6 million cleanup and revitalization effort at the former Lonz Winery property on Middle Bass Island.

The funds, chiseled out from the state’s two-year budget, should:

• Renovate support work on the main winery building, including initial structural repairs.

• Remove asbestos and other hazardous materials.

• Refurbish the house near Lonz Winery, once belonging to George Lonz, the winery's founder.

• Pave the way to create some use of the legendary building.

The former winery could become a restaurant, a gallery, another winery or some other community gathering place. It's truly up to community members.

In the coming months, officials plan to host open houses at Lonz Winery, encouraging people to attend and offer suggestions as to what on-site transformation they’d like to see.

Lonz Winery’s terrace collapsed in 2000, destroying the building’s structural integrity. The horrific incident killed one person and injured up to 100 others. A short time later, the state purchased the property for $6.75 million. Since then, the property's remained empty.

State officials contend they need to partner with private individuals or businesses to fully redevelop the site.

Furthermore, officials also announced wide-sweeping changes at various other properties. The projects should start and end sometime within the next two years:

• Catawba Island State Park: Knocking down the old park office, replacing bathrooms and enhancing the boat launch ramps.

• East Harbor State Park: Updating the restrooms, improving the electrical systems and providing more on-site services. This piggybacks off other planned upgrades, such as a new courtesy dock, scheduled at this property.

• Kelleys Island State Park: Receiving more accommodations, including electrical and water hookups.

• North Bass Island State Park: Providing more boating access, installing new hiking trails and creating new and bolstering current primitive campsites.

• South Bass Island State Park: Upgrading campsites with electrical hookups.

Other than Lonz Winery, officials didn’t disclose exactly how much money would be designated at these properties. They did say these various upgrades should collectively cost around “a couple of million dollars.”

Meanwhile, a separate initiative to upgrade the keeper’s house at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, from a different funding source, will simultaneously occur.

“We always want to provide Ohioans more opportunities to get out and enjoy Lake Erie and our island state parks,” said James Zehringer, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources director. “These projects will improve the experience of our visitors and help transform the Lonz Winery property into a destination that will benefit residents and local businesses.”

Pick up Sunday’s Register and go online to sanduskyregister.com to read a more in-depth story about these upgrades.

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