Officials hope upgrades will attract tourists, boost local economy –
By Patricia Beech –
Adams County commissioners on Monday, March 5, joined representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for a tour of upgrades currently being made at Adams Lake State Park in West Union.
The 90-acre park, located in Ohio’s bluegrass region, is one of the state’s most scenic and biologically unique areas.
While the park has much to offer nature enthusiasts – remnant prairies and a quiet lake – it is primarily a “day-use” park lacking overnight facilities, according to Gary Obermiller, the ODNR Deputy Director of Ohio State Parks and Watercraft.
“We had available space in the park that didn’t lend itself to day-use, so we thought we would put in some primitive overnight camp sites and offer that opportunity to the public,” he said during the tour of the new camp sites.
The overnight camping facilities will be available on a first come-first serve basis with self-registration cards posted at each of the ten newly developed sites.
Obermiller noted that ODNR’s interest in developing the area came at the urging of Adams County Commissioners Brian Baldridge, Ty Pell, and Diane Ward, along with Tom Cross, the director of Adams County’s Travel and Visitors Bureau.
“They have a real interest in promoting Adams County,” Obermiller said.
“We do have people who are drawn to this area for the beautiful scenery and nature, and they’re looking for places to camp,” said Commissioner Baldridge. “This partnership with the state of Ohio to upgrade Lake Adams and take it to the next level will allow us to provide even more services to people who come in from other areas.”
Holly Johnson, director of the Adams County Office of Economic Development, praised ODNR’s decision, saying, “they have added value to the lake, while making it accessible for all members of the community”.
“We are thrilled that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is once again investing in Adams County, and improving the quality of life for our residents and visitors,” she said. “Our office is continually working towards making our county a destination, and now we are one step closer to that goal.”
Johnson points out that Adams County has seen a substantial increase in both tourism and lodging-generated tax revenue over the past several years.
She said data shows the lodging tax in Adams County increased from $34,785 in 2010 to $62,709 in 2016 – a difference of $27,924, or an 80.3% rate of change.
With the upcoming closure of the county’s two coal-fired power plants, and the subsequent loss of millions in tax revenue, local government officials are eager for an upswing in tourism, one of the many lifelines they hope will help stabilize the local economy.
While Commissioner Pell admits it’s difficult to put a dollar amount on potential tourist-generated tax revenue, he says interest in Adams County’s tourist industry is energized and growing.
“We’re looking at every opportunity we have in partnership with the state because tourism is hugely important to this area,” he said. “We’ve got the natural resources and we need to develop those areas.”
Each of the newly developed campsites include a concrete pad for campers and tents. Camper pads are approximately 12’x40’ while tenting pads are 10’x10′. Each camp site will also have picnic tables, grills, and fire rings.
Additionally, parking areas will be re-striped and numbered according to the corresponding camp site for reservations.
“This lake is a beautiful resource and we’d like to have more people come to enjoy it,” said Commissioner Ward. “With these new camp sites, visitors now have a place to stay when they come here to hike or canoe or just enjoy the outdoors with their families.”
In addition to the new camp sites, Obermiller said in the future ODNR is planning to add handicap-accessible docks for fishing and launching watercraft, and additional fishing accesses leading off the paved trail system to the shoreline. He said facilities already on site would be painted and “spruced up”, but access to electricity and sewer service will not be available for another two to three years.
TVB Director Cross said he believes the improvements will be a great asset for Adams County.
“I’m eager to see what impact they will have,” says Cross. “I think they’ll be heavily used when the word gets out among people who come here to visit the Amish community, or to see Serpent Mound, or hike the Edge of Appalachia, or canoe down Brush Creek. I think it will be a real feather in our cap.”