Could 2017 be the year that the first real steps of meeting the promise of the Rocky Fork Lake region are finally taken?
Rocky Fork Lake has long been an under-appreciated jewel in the Highland County landscape. Known by outsiders as a beautiful weekend getaway for visiting, fishing, camping and boating, the lake area is taken for granted by county natives or, worse, considered a place to avoid because of crime.
But that could be changing. This week, the Rocky Fork Lake State Park Marina was awarded an Ohio Clean Marinas designation due to efforts to meet certain environmental and cleanliness standards. And thanks to the efforts of the the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Planning Process (RFL-ASAP) project, which in October was awarded a grant of more than $800,000 from the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, issues at the lake will be tackled in a major project.
The award was the result of more than 18 months of hard work and planning by county stakeholders in partnership with Ohio University. The grant was technically awarded to the Highland County Commissioners, but commissioners credit LuAnn Winkle, the director of Turning Point Applied Learning Center, for leading the effort that led to the win. The funding is designed to help communities develop comprehensive strategies that target neighborhoods with hot spots of crime and violence.
Tackling crime in the lake area and improving overall economic development opportunities there is a key objective of those who say the lake has untapped potential both for county residents and as a tourist destination.
During the coming year, the grant will be put toward good use to reduce crime, improve the economy, and enhance the image of the lake area. Rocky Fork has long been home to a number of residents and businesses who have fought hard to bring the region the attention and commitment from elected leaders that it deserves.
We strongly support all efforts to tackle problems, real or perceived, that prevent Rocky Fork Lake from becoming the showcase it should be and the benefit to the county that its presence has always promised, and we commend those who are working to make it happen now.