Island life on South Bass Island calms down on Mondays, but a Monday on North Bass Island is just like every other day of the week: quiet.
I set foot on the island at 7 a.m. and the island’s “major” industry was already in full operation. The sun was coming up to the sound of a forklift moving grapes by the ton on the island’s main dock.
For more photos from North Bass Island, click HERE.
The workday started much earlier for Jim Yelensky, his wife, Sandy, son, Evan, and Thurman “Woody” Wood, a coworker of the Yelenskys. They started at 4 a.m. and were harvesting 19 rows of Riesling vineyards to get six tons of grapes to ship to Sandusky’s Firelands Winery for processing. September and October are the busy months, as the grapes ripen on the 48 acres of state land that are leased to the winery, according to Jim Yelensky, a 32-year veteran of grape farming on the island.
That 48 acres is a fraction of what Dale Burris remembers when he managed for Paramount Distillers in the 1970s and ’80s. “Every grapevine that was on this island, I was responsible for planting,” Burris said. Burris now manages the state’s property on the island, at total of 593 acres, or 87 percent of the 677 total acres. With most of the vineyards removed, the land is returning to its natural, undeveloped look. The State of Ohio bought the property from Paramount Distillers in 2003 for $17.4 million, a total raised with state funds, and grants both on the state and federal levels. The remaining 13 percent is owned privately or is a site for the island’s school, chapel, airport or post office.
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