Lake Erie’s boat launches remain open
Columbus — With developments ratcheting up to contain the coronavirus crisis, as many questions are being asked as answers are available.
Among them for Ohio’s sportsmen is the status of the popular public boat launches in Lake Erie’s Western Basin.
This query is of particular concern now as the lake’s spring walleye fishing season ramps up. Access, then, to the region’s boat launches is of keen interest and importance to anglers.
The situation remains in a state of uncertainty, however, especially after Sunday, March 21st’s “Stay At Home Order” issued by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health’s director, Dr. Amy Acton.
This order begins at 11:59 p.m., March 23 and expires April 6.
Impacted includes non-essential businesses. In Pennsylvania where a similar edict was issued last week, those non-essential businesess included sporting goods stores, gun shops, and bait stores.
Such a likelihood cannot be ruled out for Ohio, either.
“This order prohibits holding gatherings of any size and closes all nonessential businesses. It does NOT prohibit essential activities like going to the grocery store, receiving medical care, or taking your pet for a walk. Residents can return home from out of state and can leave the state,” says the Ohio Department of Health, which is the entity that actually issued the legally enforceable requirement.
As for the impact on Ohio DNR boat launches – whether along the Ohio River, inland, or straddling the Lake Erie shoreline – that issue is being studied by agency officials.
“Boat launches are open today. However, we are monitoring the situation and assessing the impact of today’s Stay At Home Order, and will make changes as needed to protect the public,” said Sarah Wickham, the Natural Resources Department’s chief of communications.
Asked about other agency holdings and whether the public can visit them, Wickham says the Ohio State Parks system remains open.
Such encouragement is necessary, parks officials of all stripes say, both for the physical and mental well-being of the public they all serve. Under the order, people are still allowed to go to parks, hike, jog, walk, fish, and otherwise enjoy the outdoors, officials with both the Natural Resources Department and the Department of Health are saying.
“But we are cautioning people to use common sense and maintain safe distances,” Wickham says.
“Parks and trails are always busy in the spring, and we are encouraging people to follow social distancing guidelines,” she said. “We hope visitors will follow (guidelines) from the National Recreation and Park Association for staying safe while they are out.”
These guidelines are available for viewing at www.nrpa.org.
“Social distancing is an important first step in preventing the spread of a disease like COVID-19 that allows people to go about their daily activities while taking extra health and safety precautions,” the Ohio Health Department says.
“The Stay at Home order requires people to remain in their homes unless they have an essential job or are doing an essential task like going to the grocery store or walking a pet.”