Saturday, February 21, 2004

East Fork lodge may get past talk stage



By Anna Michael
The Cincinnati Enquirer

For 15 years Clermont County officials have been talking about building a lodge at East Fork State Park, and on Friday the idea started to gain momentum.

Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud said the county would "step up to the plate" and start the investigation into the cost and logistics of building a lodge.

"There is no site" chosen for the lodge, Proud said. "We need to complete a very comprehensive analysis."

Access roads, electricity, sewer and telephone lines make up a large portion of the cost of building a lodge.

"We are going to build a team of those who can be affected both positively and negatively, and get them to the table," Proud said.

But before a lodge can be built, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources needs to give the go-ahead. Eight of the 74 Ohio state parks have lodges and ODNR is completing a study to determine the potential for a lodge at other state parks. The study will rate the parks according to the economic viability of having a lodge.

"We are happy to work with the county in pursuing this," said Glen Alexander, assistant director of ODNR. "The potential (for a lodge at East Fork State Park) is certainly possible."

State Rep. Tom Niehaus set up the meeting of officials from Clermont County villages and townships, ODNR and the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce. He represents the East Fork State Park area and is eager to see headway made on a lodge.

Niehaus recognizes that funding is limited, but he hopes state and county officials with private developers can bring "creative thinking" to the table to make this idea successful.

Officials will reconvene in early May to discuss the county's preliminary findings.

E-mail amichael@enquirer.com




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