By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show
Talk about a cool school program: the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will welcome 42 new students as members of the Conservation Teen Advisory Council (ConTAC) for the upcoming school year, members of which serve as a voice of Ohio’s youth to ODNR to help expand reach, impact, and conservation efforts.
“The future of Ohio’s natural resources is in the hands of young people like this group,” said Mary Mertz, ODNR Director. “I am inspired by their passion for nature and can’t wait to see the ideas they bring to the table.”
Members are responsible for developing and implementing strategies and campaigns that best represent Ohio’s young people. In the past, the students have helped with presentations for the Great Lakes Commission, participated in stream clean-ups/litter pick-ups, crafted social media posts, shadowed staff, and much more. They are then encouraged to take those experiences and the skills learned into their communities.
The new ConTAC team joins 18 returning members, spans across 28 counties and accounts for 45 Ohio schools. ConTAC members serve a minimum of one year on the council and will dedicate approximately 10 hours per quarter to their work. You can learn more about the group and its mission at ohiodnr.gov.
OLHAP a win/win
The Ohio Landowner/Hunter Access Partnership (OLHAP) Program is a new way for Ohio hunters to get access to private properties, funded in part by the federal Farm Bill under their Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). The bill provides funding to state and tribal agencies through a competitive grant process to implement programs encouraging hunting access on private properties. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, Ohio was awarded $1,831,500 to implement the new OLHAP program, which will use part of those funds to pay landowners for hunters to access their property. Participating landowners receive annual payment rates ranging from $2 to $30 per acre depending on the characteristics of the property enrolled. Enrollment contracts are for 2 to 3 years, with the possibility of extension.
Hunters wanting to access an OLHAP property must first obtain a free daily OLHAP Permit, via a check-in system available from Sept. 1, 2021 — June 1, 2022. Permits are valid only from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on the date listed on the permit and cannot be obtained earlier than 12:01 a.m. the day the hunter wishes to use a particular property. Only individuals with a valid OLHAP Permit issued in their name are granted access to the property; anyone accompanying a permit holder must also have an OLHAP Permit issued in their name, even if they are not hunting.
If you are a landowner interested in finding out more about the program or wishing to enroll your property, or a hunter seeking enrolled acreage to hunt, visit ohiodnr.org and follow the OLHAP links for more information.
Portsmouth hopes to improve waterfront
Portsmouth city leaders are hoping to use a $1.6 million grant from the ODNR to upgrade their riverfront. The state set aside $3 million to improve boating facilities across the state and Portsmouth is receiving more than half of that funding. The city will need to come up with $720,000 in matching funds for a total price tag of $2.4 million for the project.
The plans include putting in a new boat launch, new docking facility, excavation work, paved parking, a new retaining wall and improvements to lighting and electricity.
“What we’re hoping is to have a boat dock that will allow recreational boaters to park and walk up to downtown and visit for a day,” said Tracy Shearer, Community Development Director regarding the project.
Kayak and fishing access enhanced at State parks
Anglers of all abilities have an additional place to fish this summer at Buck Creek State Park, thanks to a new accessible fishing pier recently installed near the marina at Clarence J. Brown Reservoir by ODNR’s Division of Parks and Watercraft.
The dock-like pier was built by Merco Marine and assembled by the park staff. The cost was split between both divisions, and plans are to install underwater lighting, which will attract fish for after-dark angling.
This is the second new accessible project at Buck Creek State in the past year. Last Fall, the park created a new accessible trail, Coyote Run Trail, and later this year, the park plans to develop an accessible archery range. To learn more about Buck Creek State Park, visit: ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/go-and-do/plan-a-visit/find-a-property/buck-creek-state-park.
The ODNR is also is making upgrades at Tar Hollow State Park, including a new accessible kayak launch that will give people of all abilities a chance to better enjoy the water. The new accessible kayak launch was installed at the park’s existing boat ramp on Pine Lake, near the public beach. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats can be rented from the General Store at the park.
The Division of Parks and Watercraft used funds provided by the Waterway Safety Fund to purchase this launch through EZ Dock. EZ Dock creates decks, boat launches, and more for users of all abilities. Other improvements at Tar Hollow include modernizing the restrooms at the campground and replacing the camp lodge roof. To learn more about Tar Hollow State Park, visit ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/go-and-do/plan-a-visit/find-a-property/tar-hollow-state-park.