ST. MARYS — Visitors to Grand Lake St. Marys State Park will once again be able to take advantage of deep discounts this year.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced it plans to continue to offer a 50 percent discount on camping and dock fees for 2013. Getaway rentals will be discounted 25 percent and the special prices will be in effect from April 1 to Oct. 31 — excluding May 24-26, June 30 to July 6, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, Sept. 20-22 and Oct. 4-6.
“It’s definitely going to help get people back to Grand Lake St. Marys,” Grand Lake St. Marys Park Manager Brian Miller told The Evening Leader. “That will in turn help promote local tourism.”
This year, Miller will serve as the president of the Auglaize and Mercer Counties Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was during a recent CVB meeting where Miller got a bit of good news.
“Looking at our numbers, the bed tax in 2012 was up and was the highest it’s been since 2008,” Miller said. “The bed tax gradually fell off in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but came back up last year.”
The fall off in bed tax revenue coincided with the national economic recession as well as water quality issues at the lake. As state and local officials stepped up efforts to improve the lake’s water, visitors started to return to the lake.
“We still have a long way to go,” Miller said. “We have a couple people with hotels on our board and I asked them what they contributed the increase to. They said they started to see more business on the weekends, and that tells us that the tourism is starting to come back.”
One hurdle local lake officials continue to face is the misconception about the lake’s condition.
The past two years the toxin levels in the lake have been relatively low, but Miller said officials continue to battle the images of the neon green muck floating on the lake’s surface.
“Will we still have an advisory, yes, but hopefully we can get people back here and show them there is a lot to do here besides just swimming,” Miller said. “You can still fish and boat here and there are a lot of things to do in the communities around the lake, too.”
Fishing has been a boom recently for the lake. Miller said last year’s crappie season was among the best in the lake’s history.
“That’s an indication it will be even better this year,” Miller said of the crappie fishing. “And with all the testing that’s been done, the fish are safe to eat.”
The discounts also help local residents who have been impacted by the lake’s condition.
“That 50 percent dock discount also applies to any local residents with docks,” Miller said. “They also have been impacted by the water quality and we recognize that.”
For more information on reservations, call the park office at 419-394-3611.