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IMPACT OF FRACKING

Area officials fear for future of park on Maumee Bay

A month after the height of birding season at Maumee Bay State Park, local leaders gathered there to sound the alarm about the park’s future.

Oregon City Councilman James S. Seaman, Jerusalem Township Trustee Joseph W. Kiss, Jr., and Keith Webb, president of the Maumee Valley Adventurers, discussed an amendment in the House state budget bill that, they said, would endanger parks like Maumee Bay.

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People ride kayaks at Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon. Local leaders discussed an amendment in the House state budget bill that, they said, would endanger parks like Maumee Bay.

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They were joined by Nicholas Mandros, northwest Ohio regional coordinator for the Ohio Environmental Council.

The amendment in question changes the nomination process for the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, created in 2011. The commission has the authority to authorize leases for fracking and other types of resource extraction from state parks and other state properties. Gov. John Kasich signed the law creating the commission, but did not nominate anyone to join it, effectively imposing a moratorium on fracking in state parks.

The budget bill approved by the House would allow the legislature, instead of the governor, to nominate members of the commission.

For Mr. Seaman and the others, this presents a danger.

The amendment would potentially allow the energy industry to “go into a pristine state park and set up fracking and drilling and turn the wildlife upside down,” Mr. Seaman said. “It would completely be an obstacle to the continued quality of life for all the families and people that enjoy the great outdoors.”

Brad Miller, spokesman for Speaker of the House Clifford A. Rosenberger (R., Clarksville), denied that the amendment was a push for more fracking. He said the move is about “spearheading public discussion” of the issue.

“The intention is not to steer the committee in any particular direction, but rather to fulfill a commission that was created by the General Assembly years ago,” Mr. Miller said.

“If any public leaders or elected officials have concerns” about fracking in local parks, Mr. Miller said, they’d “certainly be welcome to bring those forward, and I think that the commission would be a great place for those discussions to occur.”

Though there are currently no proposals to frack at Maumee Bay State Park, the officials gathered at the park expressed concern that the site might be affected in the future.

Maumee Bay State Park is integral to the local economy, Mr. Kiss said.

“The birders that come here, the people that [birding] attracts from all over the world, the conferences that we have here, the fishing industry that we have here — it's everything to the township. It's our No. 1 egg.”

Mr. Kiss believes fracking would “change the image” of the park for the worse, nationally and globally.

“I don’t think it’s a good use for the parks at all,” he said.

Mr. Seaman plans on leading a “grassroots” effort to stymie the amendment. He intends to introduce a resolution condemning the amendment to the Oregon City Council as early as next Monday.

“Maumee Valley Adventurers will work at a grassroots level to let our membership know,” Mr. Webb said, aiming to “to make them aware of what's going on so they can contact their legislator and hopefully make a difference.”

Contact Victorio Cabrera at: vcabrera@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @vomcabrera.

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