(Posted Dec. 2, 2015)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Madison County Park District is amending its grant application but not its overall vision for development of a campsite at Midway Street and State Route 38 along the Prairie Grass Trail in London.
The park district, comprised of the county commissioners, plotted out a $400,000 project to buy 14 acres at the site, clear space for tent camping, build an observation tower that could double as vertical camping, and create a path from the bike trail through the camping area.
The hope was that a Clean Ohio Green Space grant would cover $300,000 of the cost, with the county commissioners raising the remaining $100,000 by matching private donations up to $50,000.
Julia Cumming, consultant to the park district, submitted the grant application. During a recent field review, the Natural Resource Assistance Committee rejected the portion of the application that involved the observation tower, saying it might not meet grant criteria for deed restrictions. The grant program focuses more on land development for low-impact recreational use and less on structures.
For a better chance at some grant money, the park district agreed to scale back its request and resubmit the application. Now, they are asking for $116,542 in Clean Ohio Green Space funds with a $38,848 local match to buy the land and put in a limestone path. The observa-tion tower has been eliminated from the application. The amended application will be reviewed in mid-December. Funding is not guaranteed.
This doesn’t mean the tower is no long part of the vision, said Commissioner Paul Gross. In fact, he sees it as the focal point of the project, a unique camping option that could serve as a tourist attraction.
The park district would pursue the tower’s development and funding separate from the Clean Ohio Green Space funding. The idea would be to set aside one acre at the site with no deed restrictions, making construction of the tower possible. The commissioners’ one-to-one match on private donations would extend beyond the scope of the grant to include the tower.
Gross said the tower is a unique idea that will get the community excited. Commissioner David Dhume said the county’s one-to-one donation match adds incentive. Should the plan move forward, they envision the community supporting the idea as it did the building projects at the county fairgrounds, for which the county also matched private donations.
According to Alan Knowles, a member of the Friends of Madison County Parks & Trails (FMCPT), there are only two or three campsites within 10 miles of the 330-mile Ohio To Erie Trail. The Ohio To Erie Trail is a multi-use path that runs between Cleveland and Cincinnati. London’s Prairie Grass and Roberts Pass bike trails are part of that path. FMCPT, a non-profit group, works closely with the county park district to maintain and enhance the trails.