Water trails proliferate around Ottawa County; ODNR seeks to improve boating access

Dec 30, 2019 | Featured | 0 comments

Image of people at the Portage River Paddling Company

Communities along the Portage River in Ottawa, Wood and Sandusky counties are getting together to create a water trail that runs from the Village of Pemberville to Port Clinton. Already in place along the Portage River in Port Clinton and Oak Harbor is the popular Portage River Paddling Company, owned by Bryan and Amanda Floro. (Photo by D’Arcy Egan)

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Parks and Watercraft will offer $500,000 in grants to improve boating access for hand-powered watercraft at public facilities across the state. Applicants may request up to $75,000 for a single project during the grant period.

“Ohio has experienced extraordinary growth in paddle sports in recent years,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “This new grant will provide funding for new opportunities, such as improving access sites and connecting paddlers to local amenities which will enhance local economies and tourism.”

A new guide to Lake Erie Island area water trails was created because of the growing interest of kayaking and paddling sports in the area.

The Put-in-Bay Township Park District, along with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and Ohio Sea Grant have published the Lake Erie Islands Water Trails guide.

The brochure features five circular paddling routes and associated public access points around South Bass, Middle Bass, North Bass, Kelleys Island, and the Catawba and Marblehead peninsula area. Access points to the nearly 60 miles of paddling trails are visible from the water and marked with color coded signs that coordinate with the guide by island. Safety, environmental information, access amenities, and paddling distances are also included.

The free guides are available at the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Welcome Centers in Port Clinton and Sandusky, as well as the Lake Erie Island State Park Offices on South Bass, Middle Bass and Kelleys Islands and the Aquatic Visitors Center at Put-in-Bay. It is also available online at go.osu.edu/LEwatertrails.

Communities along the Portage River in Ottawa, Wood and Sandusky counties are working to create a water trail that runs from the Village of Pemberville to Port Clinton. A water trail is a series of safe and convenient access points to a river as designated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), with parking and educational signage.

Easy access encourages recreation and also allows for trash cleanup and monitoring of the river’s health.The new Paddling Enhancement Grant is a competitive grant program offering 100% reimbursement to eligible political subdivisions (municipalities, townships, counties, joint recreational districts, park districts, conservancy districts) and state and federal agencies. The goal of the grant is to improve or develop recreational boating access for hand-powered watercraft at public facilities.

The application is available at watercraft.ohiodnr.gov/grants and must be postmarked by March 1, 2020. The grant period runs from May 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021. Applicants are encouraged to include one or more of the following criteria listed below:

  • improving existing paddling access site and paddling safety;
  • promoting or improving Ohio’s designated water trails;
  • meeting Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines;
  • locating a project within a designated water trail or proposed water trail
  • connecting paddlers to amenities, such as shopping, restaurants, and overnight accommodations; and
  • using “shovel ready” projects.

The grant application covers other criteria related to eligible projects. Although most grant projects do not require any match, projects that charge user fees will only be eligible for up to 50% reimbursement. All eligible grantees must be in good standing with ODNR.

Funding for the new Paddling Enhancement Grant is provided by the hand-powered watercraft registration fees collected by ODNR’s Division of Parks and Watercraft and deposited into the Ohio Waterways Safety Fund. This fund was established to support construction or improvement of public facilities for increased recreational boating safety on navigable waters of the state.

For more information on the grant program, please contact Tim Petrides at (614) 265-6521 or Timothy.Petrides@dnr.state.oh.us.

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