ODNR takes aim at Barge Party

Bickley says agency falsely claimed an 'armed militia' was hired
Amber Healy
Jul 11, 2014


A state official falsely claimed an "armed militia" was hired for security at the Sandusky Bay Barge Party on Saturday, said Shaun Bickley, the promoter of the music, dance and bikini-fest.

In an email sent Wednesday to nearly 80 members of local law enforcement agencies, Jeff Nehls, Ohio Department of Natural Resources's Sandusky-area supervisor, said an officer from ODNR's watercraft division “was informed by a reliable source (who wishes to remain anonymous) that there may be armed militia individuals providing security for  Shaun Bickley.”

“Other information is that the 'militia' person(s) own a boat,” the message continued. “It is unknown if these individuals will be carrying openly or concealed.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Bickley told the Register. 

Bickley said none of his employees, whether for his business or the party, are involved in a militia.

“We don't carry guns,” he said. “We don't carry knives. We don't carry bats.”

Bickley said he and Nehls had a disagreement last year when ODNR agents tied off at the Cove fueling station Bickley operates and began a stop and search of a customer who also was tied off there. Bickley does not allow law enforcement to operate from his property. 

The two men resolved the conflict, Bickley said, but Nehls' email suggests to him Nehls might be holding a serious grudge, and it sparked his "bone-headed" email.

"These are serious, serious allegations," Bickley said. "Enough is enough." 

The recipients of the Nehls' email, in addition to local sheriffs and police departments, included officials and agents with federal agencies Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard. 
Bickley has worked in past years to keep ODNR, the Coast Guard and other local agencies informed of the operational plan for the Barge Party, which attracts as many, or more than 1,000 boats and 6,000 visitors. Bickley anchors the barge bayside at the sandbar, which sits between the bay and the lake and extends from Marblehead to near the Cedar Point peninsula.
The barge is used as both a stage for the band and dance floor.
Despite keeping an open dialogue, in 2012 ODNR stopped and boarded a vessel being operated by Bickley's father, Joel Bickley. The Coast Guard also stopped numerous other boaters who attended the Barge Party. 
Bickley canceled the event last year but is bringing it back Saturday. 
Nehls did not respond to inquiries from the Register, and ODNR provided a response but did not address the questions raised. 
The information about an "armed militia" was provided area law enforcement “to enhance the safety of the public and officers in advance of an event that, in the past, has required some intervention from law enforcement.”

It appears ODNR never contacted Bickley after receiving the anonymous tip.

Bickley said he's angry.

“I don't know what they're looking for,” he said. “For them to go and say we're hiring a militia and we're armed is (expletive).”

The men working security are “lifelong employees,” and the party is organized by a group of about five people, he said.

The party started as a way for Bickley to give back to the community and provide a fun afternoon on the water, he said.

Bickley said he called Nehls after he learned of the email.

ODNR released a second message Wednesday, stating “Shaun Bickley has contacted local law enforcement concerning 'militia' comments. According to Mr. Bickley ,he has not hired any security or 'militia' personnel for this weekend's upcoming Barge Party.”

Bickley said he's contacted his attorney and is considering pursuing legal action. 



"Bickley said he called Nehl's after he learned of the email."

Somehow governmental hard drives fail along with emails. Was there a typo in the event name? Maybe (Barge T Party) slipped in and was picked up by NSA computers : )


just more oppression by the jack booted thugs in "law enforcement"..


The police state harassing citizens, Who would have guessed? As far as i know being a member of a militia is not illegal. Hell if you're a member of a drug cartel the government buys you a boat loaded with weapons.

The governed

It could be said that odnr is fulfilling their mandate. Keeping the water ways clear of trash and pollution... In more ways than one.

I hope the militia is there, they can stop people from throwing broken beer bottles where We walk and prevent people from getting run over by boats.


the odnr mandate these days is to generate revenue, like all law enforcement, even at the cost of our rights..


Altamont 1969... Set up a situation and stand back...

From the Grave

You guys are welcome to sit on the side of the stage and drink all the free beer that you want!


What part of the 2nd Amendment is the ODNR concerned about?
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

If there WERE to be a Militia then there would be security to keep those attending free from harm of others, yes, even an overly agressive ODNR or Coast Guard who THINK its their constitutional right to invade and illegally search people without probable cause or a warrant. The idiot Bush caused this crap when he called the terrorist religion a 'religion of peace' and then took our rights away by executive order.

Seems ODNR needs to fire this jerk and get someone with common sense and knowledge of the Constitution instead of his socialist left wingnut ideology that 'government must control everything" attitude. At least send him to sensitivity class so he doesn't have a woody against peoples constitutional rights!




Hey bickley, you are right... Enough is enough... Just go away. Your little party has turned into a dirty drunk fest.
You really want to give back to the community???? Then donate to one of the many charities that are in need in Sandusky.


I take it you never get invited to any of the good parties.


I've been to one and I can say the same thing-- I never want to attend one again. People get stupid and I definitely don't want to see half naked (or actually naked) unappealing college kids showing their stuff. It's distasteful.

Peninsula Pundit

A couple of old nearly-60 somethings don't like pee in the water but they do want to pee on everybody else's good time.
Sounds like a reprise of the 'if it's too loud, you're too old' syndrome.
Crawl in the casket, guys, and get it over with.


U think the coast guard is bad now wait until this drunk fest!!!!!


I wouldn't be upset if it were cancelled for good; the sand bar used to be a great place, and so did the first couple of parties before it went too far out of control. Now every boat owning amateur from Cleveland to Toledo seems to flock to the same place on that day. It's no fun stepping on beer bottles, having trash thrown in your boat, or seeing turds float by. The shine wore off for me a long time ago.


If bickley would stop acting like hes above the law in everything he does, maybe these problems wouldnt follow him. He tried to pit one agency against another (coast guard & sandusky police)! Go away, bickley!!


We have different ideas of giving back to the community. Ugly, fat chicks in bikinis dancing for a bunch of dudes standing in urine infested water with mullets and barb wire tats wrapped around their flabby arms is just not my idea of giving back.

From the Grave

Hey, they can't help it if they're ugly...

Whiskey Tango F...

Although it is fun and entertaining, Mr. Bickley does not own the sand bar. If the barge party were in the cove, he can do as he wants. When it is in the "public" it falls into the jurisdiction of law enforcement. While it is generous of him to extend his resources for free, it does not give him the "right" to ward off all law enforcement. Just because you go to blossom to a concert does not give you the "right" to get trashed and drive your car home. Although it is annoying and inconvenient to get boarded at inspected by harbor nazis, if you are not breaking the law, you have nothing to fear. Inconvenient? Yes!
As far as the email goes, that was just wrong. They all know the party is taking place. If anyone is carrying a concealed weapon, has the permits, and is sober, they have nothing to fear.
The SAD part is you are guilty until proven innocent by a $250/hr attorney in our fine country of Inbred corruption!

The Bizness

I have gone to the barge party, and will probably make a quick stop by this year, but I think it does more harm than good for the community. A lot of skippers are out there drinking, and it doesn't take much for bad things to happen on a boat.

It would also seem like people at the party have no regard for the environment with the constant trashing of the waters.

Is the ODNR wrong to say what they said? Yes. Although, no one would like to see a group of men carrying a bunch of weapons where alcohol is involved.


"I have gone to the barge party... but I think it does more harm than good for the community."

You're starting to grow up. Now extend that maturity to your belief that the land-based version is what Downtown Sandusky needs.


How is this any different than Bike week? less noise in Sandusky, people come from all over and spend there money in the grocery stores, gas stations, and marinas. We have went the last couple they have had and had a great time. Some of the people are less than desirable but like I said No different than bike week!

The Bizness

I don't think it brings that much money to Sandusky, people boat in from surrounding areas. Very few trailer in.


Today the " Weed Chopper", the non numbered black helicopter is flying around Erie County. Next week the SR Headlines will be about weed busts, Like this is a real deterrent. Most of law enforcement is a joke, Obama swore to protect our boarders and look how we are being invaded with his blessing, but we need a passport or were arrested and jailed.


Am I a barge party fan? No. Never been to one, never intend to. (All that crap -- literally and figuratively -- in the water? All those drunks? No, thank you!) Am I a Shaun Bickley fan? Not so much. But I'm falling squarely on the side of the party and Mr. Bickley, here!

What at least one person at the ODNR did is reprehensible. If Bickley decides to sue -- and I wouldn't blame him! -- I wish him luck, though. Many LEOs and their respective agencies are now "above the law," and the rest of us have to toe their line, whether it's right or wrong, unless we can afford high-dollar attorneys or otherwise have "connections." Land of the free? Not so much...

The Bizness

Not sure what he would sue for though? ODNR was simply giving a heads up to other LE that people may have weapons.


People "may have weapons" at ANY venue. This email was more specific, and claimed Bickley had hired armed militia members, something that ought to be easily proved true or false. (Apparently, "militia" is a big scary buzzword used to make such accusations seem even worse.)

The Bizness

This article says, "may have hired", which is a lot different than saying he has.

I still would like to know what he would sure for.


Smells of the same stuff as that bogus warrent in Norwalk.


Is it possible that Mr. Nehls could be in violation of ORC 2917.31, inducing panic?