Park closure still on

Published 10:32 am Monday, October 22, 2012

PEDRO — The Ohio Department of Transportation is moving ahead to close down Ellisonville Park, but an eleventh hour solution could possibly rescue the primitive rest area.

“We are still in the process to remove the facility,” Kathleen Fuller, spokesperson for ODOT District 9, said on Friday. “If we are going to keep something open, it depends on different factors and the property owner.”

The park, comprised of shelter houses and restrooms, was placed off State Route 93 between Ironton and Jackson by ODOT in 1939. Although owned and maintained by ODOT, the park is in the Wayne National Forest, which in the 1960s, gave ODOT an open-ended permit to have the park.

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But over the past two years, ODOT has been shutting down primitive rest areas such as Ellisonville throughout the state.

“All primitives have outlived their usefulness,” Fuller said. “They are in such a state of disrepair. We are looking at it from a maintenance perspective.”

However there have been primitive rest areas in other communities where government entities have taken over.

“(That would be) between (Lawrence) County and the Wayne National Forest,” Fuller said. “We don’t have a problem with anybody else maintaining that. We wouldn’t hinder or hamper that.”

If there is no other group that agrees to take over the park, ODOT will begin dismantling it on Oct. 29.

“It depends on the size, but it does take a couple of weeks to clear the area,” Fuller said. “We have to return it to its original condition. If we would clear it in the winter, we will come back in the spring and reseed it.”

The Lawrence County Commission has gone on record in opposition to the closure and placed in gasoline stations and grocery stores petitions stating support for the park. As of Friday, 1,000 residents along State Route 93 signed the petitions wanting to keep the park open.

Also, last week, 100 students from Rock Hill High School sent handwritten letters to Jerry Wray, the director of ODOT, the county commission and Tim Slone, Ironton district ranger of the WNF, protesting the park’s closure.

“The folks wanting to have the petitions to ODOT to keep the park open, it is one of those things since we are in the Wayne forest, we all have to work together,” Fuller said. “(It would be) a decision by both ODOT and the Wayne as far as something going forward.”

In other communities that have kept their parks, ODOT had donated the structures that were there.

“What they wanted, we gave to them,” she said. “If they don’t want them, we are obligated to remove it.”

Fuller said most communities find upgrading restroom facilities to modern standards cost prohibitive.

“The costs of the upgrades are beyond what the locals can afford to do,” Fuller said.