Interest in Portage River Water Trail
People from Pemberville in Wood County to Port Clinton in Ottawa County and communities in between have looked at the recreation potential of the Portage River for many years. Plans were recently dusted off for a proposal to include a water trail project in the Ohio State Capital Budget. While that funding opportunity did not come through, state agencies dealing with waterways say that the idea has merit and preliminary plans are positive.
At a meeting of the Portage River Basin Council held at the Pemberville Opera House on April 4, Tom Arbour, Water Trails Coordinator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Gary Obermiller, Assistant Director Ohio DNR, said that the Portage had great potential for a 36-mile water trail. Arbour said that the water trails program is the same concept as a walking or biking trail except, “the path is already made, and it’s water.”
Tom Arbour pointed to a steady rise in interest in kayaking and canoeing and the existence of several access sites already established on the river. His agency is tasked with helping local groups plan, engineer, and construct a series of safe access points and make a well-designed trail. He said that he typically helps create signage and brochures that tie the different sites together. “When people see an official access point, they know that this is a safe place to put in,” he said. Signage and printed materials emphasize safe paddling and point out hazards.
A study by communities along the main stem of the Portage show seven existing access points, five of which need some improvements to be more accessible. Improvements could include gravel parking, access to restrooms, and stairs with a boat slide to make it easier to get personal watercraft up and down a bank.
Elected officials at the April 4 meeting included Pemberville Mayor Gordon Bowman, Elmore Mayor Matt Damschroder, Virginia Park representing the Ottawa County Township Association, and Ottawa County Commissioners Jim Sass and Mark Coppeler. The DNR officials suggested that the next step for these and other interested parties in the region is to form a group to work out details of responsibility and maintenance and apply for funding.