Public input requested on project transforming Buckeye Lake area park

A photo of the design concept for Buckeye Lake State Park – North Shore shows a pier and other amenities possible for the area.”

BUCKEYE LAKE – A Buckeye Lake area organization is seeking public input on a project that could transform Buckeye Lake State Park – North Shore in the coming years.

Last week, Buckeye Lake Region Corporation announced draft design concepts for redevelopment of the park, including a community pier. Alongside the announcement came a call to the public for input on what kinds of amenities they’d like to be in a re-imagined park.

In a press release, BLRC explained the design centers the park and pier as an “economic incubator with amenities and public docking,” increasing the useful green space from its current one acre to six. Other amenities in the design include an enhanced boat ramp, increased parking, a Ferris wheel, carousel, two restaurants, a playground, beach, a stage pavilion, a picnic pavilion on the pier, a fish habitat an accessible kayak launch.

According to BLRC Director Mike Fornataro, the idea for the project began in 2017 when early illustrations were completed, one of which depicted a pier on the north shore of Buckeye Lake.

“It was always a conversation point. We talked about the pier, and it evolved into the design work you see now. There was a capital budget request done…There was a request for the design and engineering work grant and it was in the state capital budget,” Fornataro explained. “It was attributed to ODNR. It was going to be in ODNR’s budget. We managed that grant for ODNR and did a nationwide RFP (request for proposals).”

The Columbus-based planning, urban design and landscape architecture practice MKSK, he said, had the winning proposal.

“Their design work shows a total reimagining of what North Shore Park could be. Currently, North Shore Park is a parking lot and a boat ramp,” Fornataro said. “This reimagines it, adding parking spaces, an additional boat ramp, amenities, a lawn space. It’s someplace you would go and spend an afternoon. You could have community events, things like art festivals and other gatherings.”

“It would be unlike anything on or around Buckeye Lake at this point,” he continued.

According to Jeffrey Pongonis, of MKSK, their organization previously worked with Fornataro and BLRC to develop a vision plan for what hospitality in the Buckeye Lake region might look like.

Arin Blair, also of MKSK, said in an initial survey of the community, five top themes emerged for what people would like to see designed into the project, including connections to food and shops, amazing views, walkways and pathways, and special events.

Addressing a question about any challenges presented when designing the project, Pongonis said their work is cognizant of the recently completed dam.

“Our work is not going to impact that and if anything, will extend its reach. That certainly is not necessarily a challenge for our project, but knowing how important that work around the lake was, we’re certainly cognizant of it and part of our team…played a role in the reconstruction of the edge of the lake,” Pongonis said. “It’s definitely something for us to pay attention to. We place a lot of value and importance on the work the state did and the time and patience the residents of Buckeye Lake had when that was going on, so we’re very much paying attention to the health and condition of the dam.”

He said other opportunities are that the park is a popular place, so it has a lot of pressure on it. Noting there aren’t many places like it around the lake, Pongonis said they recognize there are a lot of constituencies and ways the park can be used. He added they’re hopeful they can expand the way the park is used to benefit both residents and visitors, as well as grow and support existing businesses.

Blair agreed they want to help the community achieve their vision for the park. She explained in the 2017 master plan, there was a vision for a pier and a survey at the beginning of the design process helped them understand what people would be excited about.

“That helped lead to the green spaces, the playground, the restaurants, the boat parking, and even the expanded boat dock that we are showing in this concept. There’s a lot more parking. We know parking is a big constraint there too,” she said. “…All of those (current) uses (of the park) are celebrated in the new design and expanded as well as having the ability to have larger special events and things like that since we have so much more green space.”

A photo of the design concept for Buckeye Lake State Park - North Shore shows a pier and other amenities possible for the area.
A photo of the design concept for Buckeye Lake State Park – North Shore shows a pier and other amenities possible for the area.

Blair explained by redesigning the parking areas, they were able to create more useful green space within the current ODNR owned property.

Before moving forward, Fornataro said the project needs community input. He explained some sailers had noted their sailboats wouldn’t fit under the bridge used to launch a boat under a recent design, so the design was tweaked to include rigging docks on the lakeside of the bridge, which are specifically designed for sailboat rigging.

“Based on community input, there may be design tweaks,” Fornataro said, noting this stage of the project needs to be done by the end of May so they can assess how to go forward.

After receiving community input, Pongonis said he, Blair and their team will provide BLRC with a feasibility report, illustrating what the pier would look like, how it would be built and how much it would cost. Then, he said, they would work with BLRC to try to facilitate what the next steps of the project would be.

Once the project is in its final form, Fornataro said it would be funded by grants. The project, he noted can be completed in stages – however engineers say would be a good progression for the project. Fornataro said their organization will explore infrastructure grants to move the project to reality once the design is complete.

A brief survey is available on the Buckeye Lake Pier website and remains open until Sunday.

“This is the kind of amenity that will be a regional draw,” Fornataro said, encouraging the community to make their voices heard through the survey. “This will set a new standard.”

For more information about the project or to complete the survey, visit BuckeyeLakePier.org.

Source: https://www.newarkadvocate.com/story/news/2021/04/02/public-input-requested-project-transforming-buckeye-lake-area-park/7046580002/