Opposition to a scenic river designation for Rocky Fork Creek, Paint Creek and some of their branches was the focus at the Wednesday meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners. Multiple concerned citizens attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the designation and to ask the commissioners to rescind their letter of support for the designation and instead write a letter of opposition.
Tara Campbell, a farmer and landowner in the area of the proposed designation, said there was a Paint Township trustees special meeting where the township rescinded its letter of support and wrote a letter of objection to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
“We’ve been told over and over by ODNR that this will bring help with cleaning up the properties, with patrolling our properties,” she said. “But, in all honesty, we don’t need any of that … When you look at it, ODNR has let us down even at the Rocky Fork Lake area. When I was young, we had concession stands, shower houses, restrooms. It was a packed beach and you go over there now, there’s none of those amenities … A lot of trash along their areas of responsibility, so even them telling us that, I don’t have a lot of faith in the follow through… In my opinion, just if we continue to let other entities and government entities control our farmlands in this county we’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
Jeff White, another concerned citizen and farm owner at the meeting, questioned the 1,000 foot right of way and what or who the water course is being protected from. White said ODNR does not “maintain anything.”
White also said none of the commissioners have land in the area of the tentative designation area. Because of that, he asked the commissioners to put themselves in the shoes of the citizens at the meeting and to rescind their opinion of support.
White said there is a time schedule, since 30 days after the letter of intent to designate the area a scenic waterway makes it official, and it was posted on July 16 and 17.
Another citizen that did not give their name explained some of the fine print of the scenic river designation as to why he was concerned.
“I picked up this paper that you had available and on the second page, the second paragraph, it says, ‘Shall not include any lands more than 1,000 feet from normal water lines or watercourse, unless additional width is necessary to preserve the water conservation, scenic fish, wildlife or recreational value.’ That 1,000 feet means nothing,” he said. “What does recreational value mean? You go a little deeper, ‘Value related to the activity of the public engages in or may engage in for recreational sport.’ So, if you were a landowner that this was affecting, you guys are saying you agree with the federal government coming in and a state agent or the ODNR coming in and approving this scenic thing here for passing. You don’t got any problems with that? If you were a landowner after I pointed that out, how’s that set with you? …So, basically, they can come in wherever they find fit for recreational use or saving the habitat or the wildlife, they can continue on from that 1,000 foot and grab your land. I don’t think that’s right.”
The commissioners discussed other matters prior to the scenic river discussion.
Jeff Duncan, commission president, said the county personnel policy was updated from the 2013 version. He also said he traveled to the Leesburg Industrial Park where they are setting the steel on the site. Duncan also said work continues on the Hi-TEC Center roof.
There were four resolutions approved by the board of commissioners:
* Res No. 21-145 is authorization for an emergency resolution to accept the material terms of the One Ohio Subdivision Settlement pursuant to the One Ohio Memorandum of understanding and consistent with the terms of the July 21, 2021, National Opioid Settlement.
* Res No. 21-146 is authorization for a budget modification within Veterans Services budget of $2,000.
* Res No. 21-147 is authorization for an additional appropriation within the sheriff’s office budget from unappropriated funds of $2,627.46.
* Res No. 21-148 is authorization for a budget modification within T-29 Pre-Trial Supervision for the fiscal year 2020 for $7,264.
There was also one contract approved by the board of commissioners, which is as follows:
Contract 62 is an approval between the commissioners and Software Solutions for a billing system to go along with a new bookkeeping system for the county’s treatment plant.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.