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DeWine visit to Vesuvius not a wash

Fat raindrops splattered against the wooden walkway, not at all deterring the procession of green and white umbrellas moving slowly enough they resembled a small mushroom colony.

Mist and fog drifted upwards from the greenish-brown waters of Lake Vesuvius on a rainy August Friday.

But the weather did little to dampen the enthusiasm as U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) battled the elements to meet with Wayne National Forest officials and get a first-hand look at the boardwalk project he helped fund.

"We got the money because we thought it was an exciting idea that would really help the handicapped, the elderly and anyone else wanting to come fish," DeWine said of his efforts in 2002 to set aside federal funding for the more than $5 million project.

"It is a unique and exciting project that certainly lives up to the billing."

Seeking reelection for another 6-year term in the senate next year, DeWine was in Lawrence County for a private fund-raiser in Chesapeake. After several past visits to the forest fell through for various reasons and thunderstorms Friday, it looked like maybe Mother Nature was not going to cooperate.

But wet shoes and constant rain didn't stop him from finding time to visit the forest this time to see recent improvements that include the renovated dam area, refurbished campgrounds and restrooms and an Underground Railroad denotation at the furnace.

"This is all a real asset to the community. We can tell people we have something here in Lawrence County that they don't have anywhere else or at least not to this magnitude," DeWine said. " Š We really want to look for ways to develop the Wayne National Forest's potential. This is one more way to enhance tourism, one more asset for tourism."

Lake Vesuvius was drained in January 2001 and much of the 143-acre recreation area was closed to allow a variety of improvements that included a 1,400-foot handicap accessible boardwalk, new fishing pier and a renovated boat ramp area.

The lake was refilled in spring 2004 and has steadily returned to the hot spot it once was.

District Ranger Gloria Chrismer said she was excited about the senator's visit and wanted to pack as much as she could into the hour-or so stop.

"We really want to take this opportunity to show him some of the things we have going on out here," Chrismer said earlier in the day Friday.

DeWine has spent much of August traveling across Ohio with his family and gearing up for the campaign push. Promising he would return as soon as he could, DeWine said he was disappointed about only one thing - other than the weather.

"I'm just sorry I don't have my fishing rods," he said almost exactly as the skies calmed and the rain diminished as if maybe the senator would have had a chance to snag a catch.

But then, the rain came pouring down once again.