A handicap-accessible fishing pier at Rocky Fork Lake was the last place Tom Gall took his father fishing before he passed away in 2005, and while the pier eventually deteriorated, the memory stayed — eventually inspiring Gall and one his best friends, Jack Kerns, to raise funds for its reconstruction.
Three years after Gall and Kerns began their campaign, the new ADA-compliant pier is fully installed and active, according to a news release from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Gall said the community has many local donors to thank for the new structure, which boasts underwater lighting to attract small bait fish that attract larger fish to the area. Spider-block-style fish attractors and Christmas trees have also been placed in the water near the pier to enhance angler success, according to the ODNR release.
Gall said he and Kerns began fundraising in 2016 when they were members of the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Gall credited Kerns with the idea of rebuilding the pier.
“We all said, ‘Yeah, let’s see what we can do,’” Gall said. “I jumped on board immediately… The very last place that I took (my father) fishing was at that pier… We headed for the lake and I thought, ‘Where in the world am I going to take him?’ Then I thought, ‘I’ll take him to the pier,’ and that’s where we went. That’s why I have so much passion for it.”
It started with flyers, money jars at local businesses and an article in The Times-Gazette. Gall said when other federation members began pursuing other ideas, he and Kerns kept campaigning and eventually raised $5,000.
“It kept trickling in,” he said.
Gall and Kerns later applied for a grant from the National Wild Turkey Federation’s statewide super fund, but did not have enough donations for a local match. It was then that the ODNR got involved, Gall said, and enough funding soon materialized.
The Division of Wildlife was able to provide funding from the USFWS Sport Fish Restoration Program, according to the ODNR.
“This program generates funds from an excise tax on fishing equipment,” the ODNR release said.
Gall said while the state finished the project, it all started with local donors.
“Local effort,” Gall said. “That’s what started the whole thing.”
Gall said an especially meaningful donation came from a Greenfield woman who sent money and a letter saying that her husband, who had recently passed away, had often fished at Rocky Fork Lake, and that her donation was made from his estate in his honor.
“That was very touching to me and Jack,” Gall said. “I’ll never forget that.”
Gall thanked the individuals and businesses who made donations.
“They need to be recognized for that,” he said.
The corporate donors are as follows:
• National Wild Turkey Federation
• Whitetail Unlimited
• Eagles Local 1161
• Eagle Riders
• Hedges Supply
• Eagles Ladies Auxiliary
• Highland Power Wash
• Town & Country
• Shady Trail Camp
• Bush Auto Sales
• Murray-Fettro Funeral Home
• Lykins Oil
• Adena Greenfield Medical Center
• Marshall Mini Mart
Gall said the pier was fully installed in late winter and is now in use.
“I didn’t want to see it fail,” he said. “When you promise people who donated money that it’s going to be spent on a certain project, you want to make sure it happens.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.