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Ellisonville Park to close Oct. 29

County to fight ODOT over proposal

 

A week after an Ohio Department of Transportation representative said the prospect of closing Ellisonville Park was in its preliminary stages, the Lawrence County Commissioners report the shutdown date for the rest area is set for Oct. 29.

That date is according to a Sept. 14, letter to the commission from Vaughn E. Wilson, ODOT District 9 Deputy Director.

Now the commission wants to see what the public thinks about the closing and will start circulating petitions next week at grocery stores and gas stations along State Route 93, where the rest area is located.

“I can say I am strongly opposed to doing this,” Commission President Les Boggs said at Thursday’s regular commission meeting. “There are numerous family reunions that take place there.”

Petitions to gauge the public’s desire to keep the rest area open will be placed at Holiday BP, Rich Oil, Pine Tree Grocery, Tipton Grocery, Phillips Grocery and the Hecla Fire Station.

ODOT created the park in 1939 to provide a rest area with bathroom facility for motorists going up and down State Route 93. ODOT has a permit with the Wayne National Forest to use about 10 and one-half acres of the forest for the rest area. Ellisonville is classified as a primitive rest area and is one of 17 such areas originally built in District 9. It is one of two still in operation in the district.

Over the past two and a half years ODOT has spent $85,000 to maintain the area.

“That includes structural work, major maintenance, custodial care, mowing pumping (out the facility) and cleaning,” Kathleen Fuller, ODOT spokesperson, said last week. “Roadside rest areas have outlived their usefulness. We have had a lot of maintenance problems with our primitive rest areas. Some of them have gone back to the 1930s. These primitive facilities are in seriously failing condition and there are different issues with each of them.”

Fuller was unable to be reached for comment Thursday.

One of the major problems is that the underground vaults that hold waste are cracked and would have to be removed if the facility were to be upgraded.

“This primitive rest area no longer serves a viable purpose for the motoring public and is often the site of activities outside the scope of the special permit,” Vaughn’s letter stated. “To continue to maintain this primitive rest area or to upgrade it to current design standards would be cost prohibitive and not a wise use of our diminishing funds.”

Boggs countered the area receives much use as a place for truckers to stop for short naps and for motorists to use the restrooms, as well as a spot for reunion and family gatherings.

“I disagree that it no longer serves a viable purpose,” he said. “If it costs $85,000 to pump it out, then somebody is using it.”

Commissionor Bill Pratt argued that closing the park would not provide that much of a savings for ODOT.

“ODOT has a certain manpower here,” Pratt said. “They are not going to decrease manpower if they close Ellison Park.”

Fuller had said that if the forest wanted to maintain the park, it could. In an earlier conversation Boggs had asked Tim Slone of the Wayne National Forest if the forest would take it over. However, Slone said maintenance costs would range from $25,000 to $30,000 a year and the forest would not want to take over more commitments.

The petitions will be circulated for two weeks.

“We want to see what kind of response there is,” Boggs said. “I feel it is going to be overwhelming.”

After Oct. 29, ODOT will begin demolition the structures, driveways and culverts, according to Vaughn’s letter.