Rest area slated for wrecking ball MondayPublished 10:26am Friday, December 14, 2012
PEDRO — The reprieve is apparently over.
Demolition is slated to begin Monday on Ellisonville Park by the Ohio Department of Transportation, despite a public outcry this fall fueled by students at a local school district and the county commission.
Originally ODOT had scheduled the dismantling for Oct. 29. But petitions signed by area residents and a letter-writing campaign from students of the Rock Hill School District protesting the closure of the only rest area on State Route 93 between Ironton and Jackson halted those proceedings.
Soon after ODOT announced the first demolition plans the Lawrence County Commissioners went on record opposing that move, even placing petitions in service stations and grocery stores in the area. Those petitions were signed by 1,000 residents along State Route 93 stating they wanted to keep the park open.
At that time the commissioners investigated taking over running the park, but have backed away from that.
“We would rather the county not be involved because of the financial condition,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said Wednesday. “We would rather it be the (Elizabeth Township) Trustees or the (Rock Hill) school.”
The park, comprised of shelter houses and restrooms, was placed off State Route 93 in 1939. It is termed a primitive rest area since there is no sewer hookup to the restrooms, which have to be pumped out periodically. ODOT has said upgrading the restrooms to modern standards is cost prohibitive.
Although owned and maintained by ODOT, Ellisonville is in the Wayne National Forest, which in the 1960s gave ODOT an open-ended permit to have the park.
To keep the park open, another entity would have to take over the permit, obligating it to maintain the park including cutting the grass and pumping out the bathrooms.
If another agency took over the permit and decided later on to close it down, that agency would be responsible for demolishing all structures and returning the site to its original condition before the park was built.
The park is located at the base of the drive leading to Rock Hill schools and that district is exploring the possibility of taking over the permit or trading land the district owns for the Ellisonville site.
“We have some interest,” Rock Hill Superintendent Wes Hairston said. “I spoke to the trustees and to (Commissioner Bill) Pratt. We would have some interest in that. We have a lot of activities there. Everything is relative to cost.”
Hairston has had one conversation about the park with Carol Boll of the Ironton Ranger District of the Wayne National Forest on Dec. 3.
“She sent me information on costs, just to get an idea of what the cost would be,” Hairston said. “As far as grass cutting, we could maintain that. We are in the very early stages. Quite frankly my interest would be to trade land than it would be to get a permit. I am going to bring it up to the board in executive session (at Thursday’s school board meeting). My concern is liability and how it is affected by public use.”
Park demolition is expected to take no longer than a week, according to ODOT District 9 spokesperson Kathleen Fuller.
“As far as we know the management crew is still on schedule to do it,” Fuller said. “With our county crews they are pretty fast.”
Recently Kay Humble of ODOT handling the closure heard from the county commissioners that they were not going to pursue keeping the park open.
“Kay is always willing to listen to people,” Fuller said. “But they need to get in touch with her as soon as possible. Our crews are scheduled.”