(Posted Aug. 9, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Fishing has played a major role in the lives of London residents Greg and Liz Finchum. So has Madison Lake.
“My mom would bring me out here, sit in the car and read or do crosswords, and let me fish all I wanted,” Greg said about his trips as a child to Madison Lake State Park.
That was the start of what would become an obsession for Greg who spent 15 years in the 1990s and 2000s competing on professional fishing circuits around the country.
As for Liz, her childhood memories of Madison Lake are less about fishing and more about trips with her parents to swim at the beach. The fishing part of her life came later when she met Greg. In fact, the two spent their honeymoon at a fishing tournament.
Fast forward to this spring. Greg and Liz were visiting Circleville and decided to take a drive to nearby Hargus Lake in A.W. Marion State Park. While there, they spied what looked like a school locker standing at the edge of a parking lot. Signage on the locker revealed it was a “lending tackle box.” Inside were fishing poles and tackle, free for anyone to borrow and put back when they were done. Information on the box also welcomed donations of fishing gear to keep the locker stocked, as well as sponsors to establish and maintain lending tackle boxes at other lakes.
The Finchums scanned the QR code to learn more. That’s when they connected with Kimberly Taylor, founder of the Lending Tackle Box Program. A Circleville resident, Taylor unwittingly cast the line for the program last year while looking for a way to pay tribute to a family friend who passed away in 2021.
“I wanted to figure out a way to memorialize him. He loved the outdoors and his family was from around Burr Oak State Park. I thought about those little free libraries and food pantries where you can take or leave a book or food,” she said.
From there, Taylor came up with the lending tackle box idea. She purchased two lockers online, worked out the signage, then contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to get permission to install the first box at the Burr Oak Lake fishing area. When that process went well, she secured permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to install the second box in memory of her father at Deer Creek State Park near Mount Sterling.
Before she knew it, Taylor was getting calls from individuals who saw the boxes and wanted to honor their loved ones the same way. Additionally, the manager of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington Watershed District, representing 34 lakes in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, presented the idea at a national conference.
“This went from one thing to, ‘I’ve got to get serious about this,’” said Taylor, who filed for and secured non-profit status. By the end of the 2022 fishing season, seven lending tackle boxes had been installed at lakes around Ohio.
“It was just shocking that it came across so quickly,” she said.
Greg and Liz liked the concept so much they signed up to sponsor a box. The location was a no-brainer. Their box, located at Madison Lake next to the parking area near the restrooms, was dedicated earlier this summer, making it the 10th box in the Lending Tackle Box Program.
With some of the poles and tackle geared toward kids, the Finchums are excited to know they are helping others to make memories.
“Parents don’t have to go out and buy equipment. They can just borrow it here,” Liz said.
A park maintenance worker said he regularly sees people use the gear, including a family that visits the lake every Saturday.
“Our goal is to get kids outdoors and hooked on fishing, pun intended,” Greg said.
The Finchums also see the lending tackle box as a way to build public awareness and appreciation of Ohio’s parks and lake systems.
“Madison Lake is right here in our backyard, and there are people who don’t know about it,” Liz said.
Anyone who would like to know more about the Lending Tackle Box at Madison Lake State Park can contact Liz Finchum at (614) 949-1366 or scan the QR code on the box. The park is located at 4860 E. Park Lake Dr., London.
The Finchums welcome donations of closed-face fishing poles, kids’ fishing poles (new or used), fake worms and small jigs with hooks, and packs of bobbers, sinkers, hooks, and line. Donations can be placed directly in the tackle box through Labor Day weekend. The box closes for the winter and opens again Memorial Day weekend.
For information about sponsoring a lending tackle box and other ways to support the program, visit “The Lending Tackle Box” on Facebook or send an email to Kimberly Taylor at email@example.com.
The cost to sponsor a box runs between $1,300 and $1,500 and includes the concrete pad, locker, a starter box of fishing gear, graphics, and installation. The program can help potential sponsors with fundraising ideas and grant applications to help cover the cost.
While several of the boxes memorialize loved ones, others are dedicated to people who have helped to make the program a success. The Madison Lake box is one example. Signage on the box thanks Leonard Barcus who lives near the lake and provides the entire program with rods and reels at no cost or low cost.
Lending Tackle Box Locations
To date, 10 Lending Tackle Boxes have been installed at lakes around Ohio with more to come. They are located at:
Alum Creek State Park
A.W. Marion State Park
Burr Oak State Park
Buzzard Lake/Slate Run Metro Park
Deer Creek State Park
Madison Lake State Park
Paint Creek State Park
Ross Lake Fishing Area
Scioto Trails State Park
Upper Sandusky Reservoir 2 Fishing Area
Another two boxes are slated for installation this year at Caesar Creek State Park and Findlay Reservoir.