The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investing about $1 million at Rocky Fork Lake for improvements to lighting, restrooms and playground equipment, it was announced during an event Friday at the North Beach area featuring ODNR Director James Zehringer, along with other local, regional and state officials.
The announcement was the latest in a series of positive developments for the lake over the past several months, coming on the heels of the $800,000 federal grant won last year that is being used to improve economic development and combat crime at Rocky Fork.
According to Steve Harvey, assistant chief of the ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft, the funds announced Friday will go to improvements in the North Shore area and the Rocky Fork Lake campground, including:
• $165,000 for more lighting.
• $150,000 for playground equipment at North Beach.
• $400,000 for beach house restrooms.
• $300,000 for campground restrooms.
Zehringer told the crowd assembled under a large tent that he was impressed with the beauty of Highland County, particularly its “rolling hills and a lot of wooded area.”
Zehringer said the taller and brighter lighting to be installed at the lake will help with security. He said an increased emphasis on law enforcement was “one of the things a lot of people really wanted to see.”
He said additional security has already begun to be addressed, alluding to the Highland County Sheriff’s deputy who is now stationed at the lake. Sheriff Donnie Barrera was on hand at Friday’s event and was recognized for his efforts at the lake.
Zehringer said blighted buildings are also being removed around the lake.
Also on hand was David Daniels, the Greenfield native who is the state agriculture director. Daniels thanked Zehringer for focusing on Rocky Fork, and said Ohio’s parks and lakes provide “a recreational opportunity for an awful lot of people.” Daniels also mentioned $150,000 in state funding for KAMP Dovetail, the annual camp operated by Supplemental Assistance to the Handicapped (SATH).
“It’s impressive what SATH does for those kids,” said Daniels.
Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin praised his fellow commissioners, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton, along with Nicole Oberrecht, the commission clerk who has often been credited for economic development initiatives in the county.
Wilkin said three keys to success are “collaboration, cooperation and appreciation,” and praised LuAnn Winkle for her efforts in securing the $800,000 grant last year to tackle crime and economic development at the lake.
Winkle, the director of the Turning Point Applied Learning Center, pursued and won the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Project (RFL-ASAP).
Wilkin said later that a barbecue contest at the lake planned for September – expected to draw national participation and attention – which he has been working on with Destiny Bryson, the director of the Visitors Bureau of Highland County, has secured a “major sponsor,” promising to announce more details later. The event is also slated to include canoe and kayak races.
Also on hand Friday were U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-2nd District) and state Sen. Bob Peterson (R-17th District), who both spoke briefly. After the event, Wenstrup walked to the edge of the water at North Beach with his 4-year-old son, Brad Jr., as the youngster clearly enjoyed the lake and beach. Wenstrup owns a home at Rocky Fork not far from where Friday’s event was held.
A number of other elected and agency officials attended Friday’s event, including representatives from Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at [email protected]