Meeting next week on fate of Ellisonville rest area

Published 11:15 am Friday, October 26, 2012

PEDRO — Petitions and a high school letter-writing campaign may have temporarily saved Ellisonville Park from the wrecking ball.

“We won’t be starting on actual demolition this week,” Kathleen Fuller, spokesperson for District 9 Ohio Department of Transportation, said Thursday. “We are willing to listen to concerns and comments from the public.”

Last week 100 sophomores from Rock Hill High School sent letters to Jerry Wray, the director of ODOT, decrying the upcoming closure of the park that has served motorists traveling on State Route 93 from Ironton and Jackson. Besides providing a rest area, the park has also been a site for family reunions and children’s birthday parties for those in the community around Ellisonville, located in the Wayne National Forest.

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The commissioners have set up a meeting on Tuesday with officials from ODOT and Wayne National Forest and Elizabeth Township Trustees. Also invited to the special meeting is Lana Ramirez, whose students wrote the letters.

“The kids told me today they were surprised and very pleased that their letters have been taken to the heart,” said Ramirez, who intends to have some of those students accompany her to the meeting.

“As a representative of them, I would like to have my students with me,” she said.

The meeting comes one day after the originally scheduled closure of the park, termed by ODOT as a primitive rest area. High maintenance costs for the restrooms that must be periodically pumped out has been cited by ODOT as one of the primary reasons for the closure.

For the past two years ODOT has been dismantling the primitive rest areas across the state.

“There is some scheduling issues (as far as the original Monday deadline),” Fuller said. “And we received the communications from the Rock Hill students. We are looking at the letters and reviewing them and taking in their comments. We will wait to have a meeting to see if (the commissioners and Wayne National Forest) come up with an alternative plan.”

However, Fuller said she believes the restrooms will be shut down on Monday as there is no longer a contracted maintenance crew available to take care of the facility.

Besides the Rock Hill students letters, petitions placed at gasoline stations and markets along State Route 93 by the commissioners attracted more than 1,000 signatures protesting the imminent closing.

“We are going to talk the thing over with them,” Commission President Les Boggs said at Thursday’s commission meeting. “I won’t say things will be changed. We will see if there is any viable alternative.”

There have been other communities in District 9 that have taken over the responsibility of a primitive rest area, minus the restroom facility. Local communities typically cannot afford the upgrades to the restrooms, Fuller said. However, the communities do maintain the shelters and picnic areas there.

“We may depart from the rest area business,” Fuller said. “It doesn’t mean somebody can’t take over and have a park. We are willing to listen.”

“We won’t be start on actual demolition this week. We are willing to listen to concerns and comments form the public. We are not going to get started this week.”