ODNR has more secrets than Homeland Security. If their hidden agenda includes, as some citizens have speculated, that they plan to discontinue the issuance of dock permits to the owners of waterfront residents in order to develop concentrated state-owned docking facilities in a few locations, then some of their odd behavior in regard to communication with the public is more understandable.
Any notion that the goals of the new dam project include the restoration of Buckeye Lake State Park to equal or better condition than that which existed previously has been disabused by ODNR’s own statements through their representatives at public meetings. There are no plans to restore the many shoreline areas that have experienced massive growth of vegetation that will prevent the use of dockage by waterfront residents for generations. False statements made by ODNR spokespersons that the resumption of “normal” water level management will fix the problem naturally may be simple ignorance, but the sordid history of the agency’s communications with the public since before the start of the project can’t help but arouse suspicions of a hidden agenda. The only way to make things whole again must include machine dredging of many of these locations. Of course, if the issuance of private dock permits are to be discontinued, then the most pressing need of this restoration will be eliminated.
The public benefit of the utility of the lake and Buckeye Lake State Park has been, continues to be, and always should be, that to be enjoyed by all citizens of Ohio. But we should be cognizant of, and always remember, the fact that the economic and social benefit of Buckeye Lake is greatly enhanced, and perhaps necessitated, by the existence and involvement of the families and businesses residing on the lake. Any selfish interest on the part of some few residents should not negate the recognition of this asset as fact.
Whatever the genesis of the apparent animosity between ODNR and lake area residents is immaterial. Whether that relationship can improve remains to be seen; hopefully it will. In the meantime, we can only hope to be truthfully informed of the plans and activities of the state. And we can only hope that the news media function in a manner consistent with the ideals of a free press and do their homework and not continue to accept and report on the comments and informative announcements of any party at face value without the due diligence of skeptical inquiry.
Irreparable economic harm has been done to many residents and businesses of the Buckeye Lake region due to the secrecy and misinformation on the part of ODNR, particularly in the months prior to the initial announcement of the dam project. Investments in business inventory and plant, residential real estate transactions and improvement, and countless other seasonal actions and activities were undertaken that would have been deferred or cancelled had the public not been kept in the dark. In spite of planning formulated well ahead of time, no announcements were made until after the primary lake season had arrived. As a recreational lake area, the impact of this negligence on some business were a death knell from which they could not recover. If ODNR is now trudging along the same path and is pursuing plans that would alter the nature of the lake, we should be informed. Similar harm may come to the lakeside residents and businessmen as they now proceed with property improvements while under the impression that the dam project is approaching completion without any significant changes to the management of the lake and its permitted use.
The likelihood of any positive change in the attitude and approach of ODNR officials towards the public is extremely remote, based on past and current actions. They have maintained a policy that essentially shuts off any direct communication with the public in favor of channeling everything through their contracted public relations experts. Perhaps a little investigative journalism by those in the Columbus media willing to risk the cozy relationship with state government may be too much to ask for, but it would be a welcome development.