2009-04-11 / News

Buckeye Lake sale to MIG collapses

By Charles Prince

COLUMBUS - The State of Ohio's deal to sell Buckeye Lake to Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Melbourne, Australia, has collapsed.

Actually, it only existed in the fertile imagination of some rogue writers and a designer. The $990 million deal was cooked up by The Beacon staff as its tenth and probably last April Fool's hoax.

We heard from more than one hundred readers - via phone calls, emails and face-to-face. Some were first-timers, while others were fooled again and even again in some special cases. But many readers have figured it out and now enjoy seeing how many others will fall for it.

Not everyone is a fan. Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault was an early caller as some readers called the district office to complain about free Bud Lite being served at the non-existent Lakewood Junior High School. Free beer at a public school was our last hint.

A Columbus woman called and then emailed, claiming the sale story caused her to scuttle the sale of her Columbus home. She and a friend were planning to move to Buckeye Lake until "the sale" gave them second thoughts. A number of believers worried about the money they have tied up in their docks and homes. Another was concerned about higher utility bills.

Several media outlets took the bait. Channel 10 reportedly planned a story, until one of our "quotes" set them straight. Several readers reported at least one Columbus radio station was hooked, reporting the sale as fact. NBC4 built its own April Fool's story around the sale, using some very amateur actors at The Beacon. Scott Rawdon's story on Page 16 has the details.

Many elements in the story are true. Macquarie is a real company that does operate the Indiana Toll Road. Deputy managing director Jackson Lucas is my 11-month old Australian-American grandson and managing director Lachlan Hamilton is his four-year-old Australian first cousin.

Corey Delaney had more than his 15 minutes of fame in December 2007 with his infamous party while his parents were out of town. My daughter reports that Delaney was last in the news after receiving a well deserved beating by bogans at a mall in Melbourne. Bogans are Australian hillbillies.

Rep. Jay Hottinger is a member of the State Controlling Board and knew nothing about the sale or our story. His office received dozens of phone calls. But, it's not a bad thing to remind a key legislator how we feel about Buckeye Lake. Once again, the good sport award has to go to the Buckeye Lake State Park office staff. The tiny staff receives most of the calls and have never complained about the extra workload. The state park has been the focus for six of our ten "stories." That sounds like piling on, but since Buckeye Lake and the state park mean so much to many readers, it's easier to get you to suspend disbelief. ODNR officials also have a sense of humor. We're not so sure about the Ohio Lottery Commission or ODOT.

Buckeye Lake does face many challenges, including the state fiscal crisis and its impact on the entire state park system. Maintenance is being deferred at parks state-wide and Buckeye Lake is no exception. We're all going to have to help out in some fashion. That can be as little as taking a couple of minutes to pick up some litter instead of ignoring it, to taking part in an organized effort to spruce up or improve the park

There are volunteer opportunities with the Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association (740-928-6874; email: blaca@columbus.rr.com; or www.buckeyelakecivic.org); Friends of Cranberry Bog (740- 928-1274); and the now organizing Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow, Inc. (740-928-1274). It is obvious from all the comments, both positive and negative, that many of us care deeply about Buckeye Lake. We need to put that care to constructive use to help keep our treasure.

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