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ST. MARYS — Warmer than average temperatures to start the year have resulted in a flurry of activity at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park.
“We’re seeing a fair amount of campers right now,” Grand Lake St. Marys Park Manager Brian Miller told The Evening Leader. “We had that earlier warm spell, earlier than we have had before, but the last few weekends have been slow with the cooler temperatures and rain.”
During Easter weekend, campers packed the park. Miller said the influx of campers was a surprise.
“We just got caught off guard with the warm temperatures and that sparked their interest in our park,” Miller said. “We weren’t quite ready for that to be honest. We typically start opening buildings toward the first of April but we had that early warm spell at the end of March and that caught us off guard.”
Campers also are turning their attention toward the unofficial kick-off of the season. Miller said all electric sites at the park are reserved for Memorial Day weekend.
“That’s a good sign and that was a week ago when I checked,” Miller said. “We are seeing interest a little earlier than usual.”
Miller said he believes the recent flurry of lake improvement projects is starting to spread across the state, which is luring tourists back to the region.
“I think the biggest thing people are seeing is the optimism about the lake because of everything the state is doing,” Miller said. “And the 25 percent discount doesn’t hurt either.”
There is a 25 percent discount on camping, getaway rentals and shelterhouse rentals all year, except for holiday weekends, at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park. Miller said the state of Ohio is running a similar promotion through the month of April at all of its parks.
Fishing and boat traffic also are up for this time of year.
“Day use has been busy on the warm days — for fishing, we are seeing numbers we haven’t seen in many years,” Miller said. “That is because of crappie fishing and the blue gills.”
Crappie fishing was strong in March but dropped off a few weeks ago. However, Miller said crappie fishing is strong again in the lake.
“It’s a big draw, crappie fishing has always been a big draw for Grand Lake St. Marys, followed by bass and catfish,” Miller said.
As temperatures warm, pedestrian and other traffic also is expected to increase at the park. Miller encouraged motorists, cyclists and walkers to remain cognizant of their surroundings while at the park.
“The biggest tips I have for walkers and bikers is to use the nonmotor trails that we’ve developed — which I think are unique to this area,” Miller said. “For walkers and mountain bikers, use the Miami and Erie Canal because then you have no user conflicts. For people coming through our roads, make sure you are observant of the speed limits. You never know what that child or pet is going to do.”
Much of the park is under a 20 mph speed limit, while the campground is in a 10 mph zone.