MARBLEHEAD, Ohio — At least $6 million of the $88.5 million the Kasich administration has identified for Ohio state park improvements will go toward putting the former Lonz Winery on Middle Bass Island back into service.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer announced that project Thursday at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.
Other Lake Erie-area state parks that will receive portions of that new money are on North Bass Island, Kelleys Island, South Bass Island, and Catawba Island. East Harbor State Park will get some too, Mr. Zehringer said.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Lonz Winery
In most cases, the improvements will be for infrastructure, including better roads, sewers, bathrooms, showers, campsites, and electricity. It’s unclear how many of Ohio’s 74 state parks will get improvements, but such projects are where most of the money will go.
“The infrastructure is getting very old,” Mr. Zehringer said. “Most of our state parks were built in the 1960s.”
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Middle Bass Island is one exception.
The state is moving into the next phase of a marina project there that it considers Ohio’s best. It is stabilizing and removing asbestos from the former Lonz Winery a short walk away, as well as improving the historic island home next to it that was formerly inhabited by the winery’s original owner, George Lonz.
Mr. Lonz died in the late 1970s. His winery, which dates back to the 1860s, has been known as the Lonz Winery since the Lonz family purchased it in 1926.
Its role as a popular tourist destination came to an abrupt halt on July 1, 2000, when the winery’s terrace — not part of the original construction — collapsed, resulting in one death, 75 injured people, and one of Ohio’s largest and most complex rescue operations.
The state acquired the property following the catastrophe, but has not yet reopened the winery.
It plans to do so if it can attract interest from private investors, Mr. Zehringer said.
The state’s objective is to put the iconic facility back into use. Although the site seems well-suited to enter a new era as a restaurant-winery, the Ohio DNR is open to other ideas, Mr. Zehringer said.
“We know we want to preserve the history of it, including the facade and tower,” said Fred Shimp, Ohio DNR assistant director.
The Lonz Winery has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.
Steve Riddle, Ohio DNR Lake Erie islands park manager, worked at the winery during his youth.
He said Mr. Lonz was a “very unique individual — very German, very simple and down to earth.”
“You could go in and talk to him like he was your own Dad,” Mr. Riddle said.
The Ohio DNR announced plans for at least two open houses this summer to get thoughts from the public on how the building could be used again.
Dates have not been scheduled.
The Ohio DNR also is continuing to solicit opinions from Ohioans about how the $88.5 million in new money should be divided up among the state parks. To participate in the survey, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/improvements. About 3,800 responses have been logged so far, the agency said.
Contact Tom Henry at: email@example.com or 419-724-6079.