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Published: Monday, 7/28/2003

Offerings still slim at newest state park

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MIDDLE BASS ISLAND, Ohio - The state park at Middle Bass Island has no hiking trails or campgrounds.

The surrounding waters of Lake Erie notwithstanding, it has no beach for sunbathing or swimming. You can't rent a boat, talk to a naturalist, or find a flush toilet in the park.

Three years after the state bought 124 acres and the shuttered Lonz Winery, the offerings at Ohio's newest state park remain slim, at least compared with other such facilities.

But state officials urge patience, saying that a full-service park is on the way. Eventually, that could include campsites, cabins, and nature paths.

Visitors say the current facilities, however minimal, are better than nothing.

“This is going to be a great place,” Terry Brualdi said as he enjoyed the midday view from his 33-foot cabin cruiser, which was docked last week in the park's 50-slip marina. “They've done a nice job.”

His wife, Gloria, nodded. “I'll tell you, the docks and the ramps they have here are really taken care of nice,” she said. “Beautiful.”

The sun was shining, and a cool lake breeze was blowing across the island. The couple from Olmsted Falls, Ohio, were waiting for some friends to pull into the marina.

All they lacked was running water.

But since the park offers no hookups, the Brualdis had to make do with their boat's 40-gallon tank.

“It's hard,” Mrs. Brualdi said. “You have to use your boat for the bathroom and the shower. You have to make sure your water tank's full when you pull in.”

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources plans to add flush toilets and showers, said Dave Stites, planning and development manager for the state park system.

Slowly, the state is adding amenities to the park, which opened two years ago.

Last summer, workers finished wiring two dozen marina slips with electric service and installed picnic tables and playground equipment near the marina. This summer, the state has opened a nine-hole miniature golf course and is renting 15 bicycles from a small gray trailer.

“They rent them out all weekend,” said Rick Price, park officer. “Every one of them is gone.”

Mr. Price said the marina fills up on weekends, and Mr. Stites said it could eventually grow to 300 slips.

“Yeah, there's demand,” Mr. Stites said.

The state's capital budget, passed in December, allocated $3.8 million to the park, including $1.8 million in federal funds for marina improvements. State officials are working on a master plan for the park.

Visitors say they appreciate the improvements, and they hope to see more.

Krissy Hart of Avon Lake, Ohio, a summer resident of the island, said her 4-year-old daughter and 21/2-year-old son enjoy the playground's swings and slides.

“I kind of wish there was more shade, but it's nice for the kids,” she said.

Ms. Hart and others on the island expressed concern about the winery, which has been closed since July 1, 2000, when a terrace collapsed, killing one person and injuring 75.

“I'm afraid the interior's going to deteriorate to the point that they can't save it,” said Jerry Dideon, of Aurora, Ohio, who has owned a cottage on Middle Bass since 1982. “I'd really hate to see that happen.”

Mr. Stites said the state hasn't decided what to do with the winery. But officials plan to weatherize the stone structure and other nearby buildings this fall. The state also wants to clear the area around the winery of the old picnic tables, barrels, and rolls of metal fencing that remain.

“That sort of thing will be cleaned up properly,” Mr. Stites said. “We're going to be trying to boot the raccoons out of the structures and secure them properly ... until we determine in the long run what they're going to be used for.”



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