Islanders Troubled by Lack of Plans to Develop Tourism

Mon November 19, 2007 - Midwest Edition
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MIDDLE BASS ISLAND, Ohio (AP) Construction of a new marina that will have dock space for 340 boats won’t be enough to develop a local tourism economy, and state officials need to do more, island residents and local officials said.

Businesses on the island — home to about three dozen year-round residents and 1,000 seasonal ones — were hurt when the Lonz Winery closed in 2000 after a terrace collapsed, killing one and injuring 75.

The winery building towers from the tip of the island’s southern shore and was once the island’s main attraction. For years, it has stood as a visible icon for the island.

When the state bought the building and the surrounding 124 acres in 2001, officials said they hoped to turn it into a conference center, restaurant or museum. Plans for the property included cottages, hiking trails and a fishing pier to encourage tourism.

Since then, a few people have approached the state with ideas, but no proposals have been presented, said Ed Frank, planning manager at the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation. Future development depends on partnerships with private developers, funding and citizen input, he said.

Ottawa County Commissioner Steven Arndt said commissioners expressed concern at the time of the purchase about whether there would be enough money to develop the property into a tourist destination.

A public ferry from the mainland stops at the island, and the state has added a campground but not a swimming beach. One of the two restaurants on the island rents golf carts and bicycles, and private cottages and rooms are available at St. Hazards Resort, but few other tourism amenities exist.

The marina is under construction and scheduled to open for the 2009 boating season, but residents worry that it will be used just as overflow for boaters headed to nearby Put-in-Bay, which draws about one million visitors each year. A water shuttle provides transportation between the two islands.

Surveys show that boaters are looking for places that have daily rental docks, Frank said.

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