Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Fate of Woodbury campground still in limbo

Coshocton, Ohio — The future of a primitive campground popular with hunters at Ohio DNR’s Woodbury Wildlife Area is still up in the air.

Despite the Ohio Wildlife Council voting to shut down the campground starting Jan. 1 as part of a larger rules package, Tim Parrett, Ohio DNR’s District 4 wildlife manager, said the issue will possibly be reopened after several hunters voiced their opposition.

“Our chief (Scott Zody) and other administrators are going to maybe see if there is some sort of exception that can be made,” Parrett said.

Parrett said the reason DNR thought it made sense to close the campground was that it was among a handful of other primitive campgrounds around the state, some of which had long-standing vandalism problems.

“Our fish and wildlife management folks said they were putting a lot of manpower and resources to keep up with the vandalism, and we didn’t think it was a good use of sportsmen’s dollars,” Parrett said, noting that the two worst hit were Tycoon Lake Wilderness Area and Monroe Lake Wildlife Area.

While there weren’t vandalism issues at the campground at Woodbury, Parrett said the limited staff there is charged with managing the largest wildlife area in the state (Woodbury) plus eight other satellite wildlife areas in the general vicinity.

“It’s getting to the point where it’s difficult to keep up with everything,” Parrett said. “We thought camping was something maybe we could take off the plate, since we have 10,000 campsites at our state parks. … Camping isn’t something that is necessarily in short supply.”

In the case of Woodbury, there is Dillon State Park relatively nearby, as well as Salt Fork State Park.

But Dave Hornung, of Shelby, Ohio, said the camping available at the state parks would be unsuitable for the hunting camps his group of hunting buddies have erected at Woodbury, aside from being a generally unwelcome break from tradition.

Hornung, 68, said he has been camping at Woodbury for 27 years with a group of hunters that spans several generations and includes some hunters who have been camping at Woodbury for about 40 years now.

“If we can’t use (Woodbury), we probably won’t be going,” said Hornung, who said his group planned to camp there in early November, per tradition, and often used the campground for the spring turkey hunt, as well. “One of the fellas came up with a large canvas tent, and I don’t think the state park campground would let us set up like that.”

Hornung said it was disappointing that the orderly campground users at Woodbury should have to be punished for misbehaving guests at other campgrounds.

“As far as what it takes to maintain it, all they have to do is mow it during the summer and there’s a few port-o-pots,” Hornung, a retired teacher, said. “You don’t have a tremendous amount of expenses. We carry out our garbage.”

At the other problem campsites (at Monroe and Tycoon lakes), the vandalism was a serious problem, since the campgrounds often went several days without being checked on because of the lack of staff, Parrett said.

“In a few cases, people put their trash in the port-o-pot,” Parrett said. “We aren’t out there every day. It might be a week or two between visits, so we didn’t want our guests to be subjected to that.”

Parrett said the change of heart came after hearing from several hunters who stated how they would be affected by the closure.

While making no promises that the decision would be overturned, Parrett said several options are being considered right now, including only opening the Woodbury campground during the deer season, or only allowing those with a hunting or fishing license to camp at the site. Any changes could be included in the next rules package, Parrett said.

Hornung said the hunters in his group would be willing to compromise, and mentioned that the group would be willing to pay a fee to camp at the campground, which is currently on a free, first-come, first-serve basis, with about a dozen sites.

“If it’s true that the number of hunters are declining, we shouldn’t make it harder for people to hunt,” Hornung said. “If they close this road off, it would make it farther for all of us to walk. We need to be recruiting hunters, not going in the opposite direction.”

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