State park work a long time coming
Better late than never is a way of sending a left-handed compliment to the Kasich administration and state lawmakers for enabling the renovation of the lodge at Burr Oak State Park and lodges and cottages at Hueston Woods and Shawnee state parks.
The renovations are being done by U.S. Hotel and Resorts, a private operator that won the management contract with the state after a competitive bidding process and took control of both of the Hueston Woods and Shawnee facilities in February.
The same outfit is managing Burr Oak lodge and conference center under a short-term management service contract that will create a framework and resources necessary for renovations to the lodge and cottages. The lodge may reopen as soon as next month.
The 37 cottages at Hueston Woods in southwest Ohio and 25 cottages at Shawnee in south-central have been upgraded with new carpet and flooring, beds, appliances, furniture, lighting and flat-screen televisions. In addition to a new lodge roof at Shawnee, all 50 lodge rooms feature new carpet, paint, lighting and décor.
At Burr Oak, the state was at a crossroads, weighing whether to blow $2 million just to tear down the lodge, which was in declining use. Prior to closing, the Burr Oak Lodge and Conference Center employed 45 full-time equivalent employees and was the second-largest employer in Morgan County. The park covers Athens, Morgan and Perry counties.
It’s about time the state moved off do-nothing dead-center that several administrations and legislatures of both political stripes have pursued for decades. The state parks, which should be a highly visible public showcase and symbol of state pride were allowed to run down to a level of shameful shoddiness. Example:
Last fall, during the early muzzleloader special season, my crew rented a cabin at Shawnee. It was as run-down as a no-tell motel. A weathered chunk of plywood had been thrown over an obviously long untended washout in the asphalt walkway to the front steps. The roof leaked, as told by the stained ceilings. Cheap veneer interior doors were punched through or peeling and unrepaired. A bathroom sink had a long-snouted kitchen sink faucet cannibalized onto it and the shower head was a sink faucet. It was embarrassing for me, a tax-paying Buckeye, who saw lots of out-of-state plates in the cottage grove.
So, the fixes are long past due, and just a start in a long, long list of fixes that reflect state administrative and legislative neglect. That said, hat’s off to the governor and legislature for conjuring a way – any way – to get the job done.
Is it too much to ask – keep up the good work? There remains much to do in our state parks.