The dam project is winding down…so what’s next?

The dam project was a major negative influence on the region during active construction. The reduced lake level, uncertainty and lack of access to the North and West Banks had a ripple effect, both economically and on the attitude of area residents and visitors.

The dam project did, however, galvanize the Community to create a vision of what we would like to see from future development. This led directly to the creation of the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation (BLRC).

BLRC exists to strategically guide growth in a manner consistent with Community Goals and to secure grant dollars to fund water quality, infrastructure, tourism and “quality of life” projects. It does so by working across the traditional political boundaries of the Region. On the BLRC Board of Directors are elected representatives of the counties, townships, villages, school districts, home owner associations and civic groups. All political or civic entities in the Region are welcome to join and nearly all have. To see the complete list of BLRC members visit: blrc2036.org/who-we-are

During the active construction phase of the dam project, much of the focus of the BLRC was on issues directly impacted by the dam, as those were of an immediate nature. There remain many questions regarding the dam; access and amenities foremost among them. During Dam construction the BLRC was also able to present to the Community the designs and concepts created by DPZ, creating a visualization of the Community Vision. A retail study was completed. This tool for area businesses is posted on the BLRC website to be used, free of charge, by businesses looking to expand or establish in the Buckeye Lake Region. BLRC secured legal counsel to negotiate dam-front residents property rights and encroachment resolution, funded by donations from lake-area residents. Recently a $25,000 grant was awarded by the BLRC to assist in the restoration of the “Queen of the Lake III” tour boat.

The BLRC is actively pursuing many important issues that have a Regional impact:

LOGJAMS: Logjams on the South Fork of the Licking River have been allowed to grow for far too long. Primarily east of the Newark Industrial Park, these jams contribute to flooding in the Buckeye Lake Region, and when a section of the jam breaks free it causes damage such as the destruction of the Staddens Rd bridge in 2018. Removing the jams will contribute to a freer-flowing river that should be a benefit for all but requires a comprehensive study of downstream impacts. BLRC is working with watershed groups, elected officials and the Army Corp of Engineers to find a solution.

FEEDER CHANNEL: This 8-mile-long channel starts near Kirkersville and enters the Lake near Liebs Island. Much of the water that fills Buckeye Lake, along with silt and algae, enters through the Feeder. ODNR is working to remediate the end closest to the lake and the BLRC was successful in applying for $400,000 in the Ohio Capitol Budget to expand that work. At one time the Feeder Channel was connected to the South Fork of the Licking River, providing fresh water to the Lake. A comprehensive watershed study will consider whether re-establishing that connection makes sense. ODNR has designated specific funds towards that study.

PERRY COUNTY ACCESS: Of the three counties that share Buckeye Lake, Perry is alone in not having public access to the water. BLRC applied for funds from the state capitol budget and $500,000 in re-appropriations was confirmed for this project. The project will be in stages, with more amenities and access as the project matures as part of an overall revitalization vision for the Thornport area. Thorn Township is leading this project with the support of the BLRC which is actively seeking grant dollars for this important Perry County initiative.

DREDGING: Among the most critical needs for the lake itself is a comprehensive dredge plan and new dredge equipment. ODNR has created an initial plan and BLRC has been actively cultivating support for one or more dredge machines to replace the 50-year-old units currently on the lake. Elected officials at the State level generally agree on the need for new dredge units and it is hoped that a commitment will be coming soon.

COMMUNITY PIER: Similar in concept to what you may have seen at many ocean-front communities, this would be a place for people to gather, whether residents or tourists. It is envisioned as a 300’-long pier at the North Shore Park with the opportunity for fishing or relaxing, perhaps vendor carts and a restaurant at the end. Public docking would allow boaters to visit the village of Buckeye Lake. BLRC was successful in securing $400,000 in the state capitol budget to begin this project, and it is hoped that initial studies and plans may begin soon.

HOSPITALITY STUDY: A topic that came up often when asking the community what the Region needs was lodging and related amenities. A comprehensive hospitality study is planned for 2019 to determine what the real need is, what makes sense for the Region and where is best fits. Such a study will cost about $30,000.

OUR DONORS: These are but a few of the projects that the Buckeye Lake Region Corporation is working on every day. While grants may pay for projects, day-to-day expenses are supported by the generous donations of individuals and businesses in the Region. To see who is funding this important initiative, to donate to the BLRC or to learn more about what BLRC is doing, please visit www.BLRC2036.org. You are always welcome to email Mike Fornataro, BLRC Executive Director, at mfornataro@buckeyelake2030.org.

Champions of the Lake:

North Valley Bank | Buckeye Lake Marina | Park National Bank

Pinnell Dance Studio | RCD RV Supercenter | Steiner | Lobo Farms

Please support these major financial contributors and all the businesses that give so generously to the Buckeye Lake Region Community Vision