In light of Tuesday’s announcement by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources regarding closure of all campgrounds, cabins, restrooms, playgrounds and marinas at state parks across the state, Rocky Fork State Park Natural Resources Officer Adam Somerville told The Times-Gazette that although people will be allowed to walk around the campgrounds, anyone who drives a vehicle into those restricted areas could be fined.
“Anyone found past the cones at the camp entrance in a vehicle will receive a citation, so please, don’t run over our cones,” Somerville said.
The fine for having a vehicle in those restricted areas is $120 at Rocky Fork and Paint Creek state parks, he said.
“The campground launch ramp is closed due to it being included in the campground, but all of the other ramps are open,” Somerville said. “All playgrounds are closed, and anyone found utilizing the playgrounds will be told to leave the playground are, but repeat offenders will be told to leave the park. The signs and caution tape are for your safety to prevent the spread of the virus.”
On Wednesday, the ODNR announced the closing of All Purpose Vehicle (APV) areas and all campgrounds including group camps, horse camps, and family camps, in addition to all public restrooms.
“Locally, this will affect the Pike State Forest APV area just outside of Sinking Spring,” Somerville said.
A news release from the ODNR’s Division of Forestry stated that the Maumee State Forest APV Area was closed, and the opening of the Pike, Perry and Richland Furnace state forest APV Areas, scheduled to for April 1, will be delayed until the Stay at Home Order is lifted.
A sign at the entrance to the Pike APV area at Sinking Spring indicated an opening date of April 6.
Due to the Stay at Home Order, division staff will not be able to safely inspect the trails, remove downed trees, properly maintain facilities, and perform other work necessary to keep areas open and safe, the release said.
Somerville said that he and other natural resources officers will be out and about on patrol as usual to protect visitors, resources and facilities. He advised that anyone with a question for a rescources officer not approach the cruisers.
“We are stuck in a confined environment inside the cruisers, so if you need to speak with us, please flag us down, and the officer will exit the cruiser and approach you,” he said. “Don’t be alarmed if we’re wearing gloves and an N95 mask or some other type of respirator. We are taking safety precautions as well, as we don’t want to bring this virus home to our families.”
Somerville said that rersource officer, including himself, will be practicing social distancing during non-law enforcement contacts, and that people should not take this as a sign of officers being rude or unprofessional.
If assistance is needed from an resource officer during a visit to any state park, he said the 24-hour emergency dispatch center in Columbus is still open and fully staffed, and to call #ODNR from any cell phone to contact a dispatcher. Provide the dispatcher pertinent information and a call back number, as simple park questions that do not require a law enforcement response will most likely be handled over the phone.
He added that some officers have blocked or private phone numbers, so if a call is received and the display shows a blocked or private number, answer it since it most likely is an officer attempting to make contact.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.