The following is the official MWCD news release written by Darrin Laughtenschleger:
Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center will not be scheduled for demolition at this time.
Instead, the resort is being offered for free to any willing government agency and if there are no takers, it then will be offered for sale and put on the auction block before any action is taken to demolish the closed Carroll County facility.
Before an overflow crowd that implored them to reconsider their action of June 30 to tear down the 104-room hotel and meeting center, members of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) Board of Directors agreed Friday (July 22) to further efforts to revive the resort. Many members of the audience attending the Board’s monthly meeting in the Dellroy Community Center told Board members that a change in ownership could lead to a successful operation at the lodge, which lost more than $1 million in each of the past two years and has suffered from declining occupancy.
MWCD officials said they would contact numerous agencies – including Carroll County Commissioners, Kent State University at Tuscarawas and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – and prepare a letter to formally detail the offer to donate the resort to another government agency. John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary, said that a complete list of potential contacts will be developed as soon as possible.
The Board also agreed that if a new owner is not found, it will advertise the lodge for sale and if there is no buyer, arrange an auction of the facility. If there is no successful bidder at auction, the building then could be demolished and the MWCD will turn to development of new recreational facilities at the property.
More than 30 people in the crowd estimated at about 170 people spoke for nearly three hours to Board members during the meeting held only a couple of miles away from the resort. State Rep. Mark Okey of Carroll County and Carroll County Commissioner Thomas Wheaton were among those who requested that the Board reconsider its action to tear down the resort. Okey and Wheaton also mentioned that several state legislators sent a letter Thursday to the MWCD that requested that the Board reverse its earlier decision to raze the lodge.
Following the public comments, Board member David A. Parham of Carroll County introduced the motion that was then unanimously approved to suspend any plans to demolish the lodge and to seek the other potential alternatives.
“We saw the passion of the community in the Atwood region for Atwood Lake Resort,” said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary. “The Board of Directors took action today that will provide the community with an opportunity to potentially arrange for a new future direction for the resort.”
Board members have stressed that because of the historical financial losses suffered by the operation of the resort since its opening in 1965, the MWCD will not provide any funding to assist in future operations by any new owner(s).
In a 3-2 vote last month, the Board approved the demolition of the 46-year-old main lodge building and golf course pro shop, and directed the MWCD staff to focus on the development of the future recreational use of the 500-acre property. Board members William P. Boyle Jr. of Richland County, Richard J. Pryce of Stark County and Steve Kokovich of Muskingum County voted in favor of razing the buildings and developing a plan for renewed recreation use of the resort property, while board members Harry C. Horstman of Harrison County and Parham voted against the proposal.
Atwood Lake Resort, commonly referred to as “Atwood Lodge,” closed last October and has suffered from increasing deficits that exceeded $1 million in each of the past two years. Historically, the resort has not been a source of revenues for the MWCD, losing an average of more than $159,000 per year since it opened in 1965.
Occupancy rates and use of the resort’s guest and conference rooms had decreased sharply in recent years, while utility and maintenance costs for the main structure had increased. MWCD officials also said the increasing losses have hampered the conservancy district’s ability to address basic maintenance, infrastructure and customer requests at its other recreational operations at Leesville, Tappan, Clendening, Piedmont, Seneca, Wills Creek, Charles Mill, Pleasant Hill, Beach City and Atwood lakes, including its parks, campgrounds, cottage areas and marinas.
The conservancy district is spending more than $60,000 per month in utilities, insurance, taxes, general maintenance and security for the idle property, in addition to staff time. Sewer costs alone currently are $10,500 per month.
Atwood Lake Park, which is operated by the MWCD, and the two marinas located on Atwood Lake (Atwood Lake Boats Marina East and Atwood Lake Boats Marina West) remain open for business as usual.
Since the closing of Atwood Lake Resort, the MWCD Board of Directors, administration and staff of the MWCD have sought alternatives to its potential continued operation as a resort complex, including discussions with Kent State University at Tuscarawas and a resort operator who focuses on renewing financially failing properties. Kent State University at Tuscarawas continuously expressed its interest in being a part of any solution, including a possible partnership with the MWCD.
The MWCD Board of Directors announced in 2009 that one of its top goals was to divest the MWCD of the resort. Conservancy district officials spent all of 2009 and 2010 seeking alternative uses and owners for the property. The MWCD hosted a meeting for key stakeholders in the region in March 2010 at the resort to discuss the situation and participated in other public meetings throughout the year to obtain input.
The lodge is located off Rt. 542 between Sherrodsville and Dellroy in Carroll County and when it was fully operational, included the 104-room main hotel, dining room and conference center, two golf courses (an 18-hole regulation course and a lighted, nine-hole, par-3 course), 17 vacation cabins and indoor and outdoor swimming pools, along with other amenities.
The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving nearly $10 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
For more information about the MWCD, visit www.mwcd.org and on Facebook.