Indian Lake State Park set to reopen Friday, 2 weeks after deadly EF-3 tornado

LOGAN COUNTY — Indian Lake State Park is scheduled to reopen Friday, two weeks after the deadly EF-3 tornado destroyed neighborhoods.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: FEMA investigators begin to assess post-tornado damage

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the reopening this week.

“Ohioans are resilient, and we have been diligent in assuring the health and safety of residents in the weeks following the tornadoes and severe storms in Western Ohio,” he said in a prepared statement. “Indian Lake State Park is a wonderful destination for Ohioans and visitors to enjoy fishing and outdoor recreation, and its reopening is a step towards rebuilding our communities.”

ODNR Director Mary Mertz echoed that sentiment.

“Throughout this ordeal, our top priority has been ensuring the safety and well-being of our visitors and the surrounding communities. Witnessing the incredible resilience and determination of this community to restore the park has been truly inspiring.”

Bud Christman said he is excited to his community be able to do what it loves.

It’s “getting closer to being a little more normal,” Christman, owner of Bud’s Marine, told News Center 7′s Malik Patterson on Thursday. “And the way the community is and seeing the light get to be opened is kind of exciting.”

Christman said the last two weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster.

“Emotionally, it’s still not over because we’re just all holding our breath to get through it,” he said. “Every year, we have what’s called the icebreaker. And a lot of people have been just anticipating to get out. We’ll see how we do but this is a direct impact on our economy.”

There is work occurring non-stop to clear debris from the tornado, but there are still areas officials said they want people to avoid.

For instance, Fox Island will remain closed until further notice because of downed trees and severe damage to the shelter house there, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said in a statement released this week.

>> PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Musical acts come together for Logan County tornado relief

John West, president of the Indian Lake Boaters Helping Boaters, said, “there’s big barges out there and the professionals that are still cleaning it, and me personally, I will not go in that area.”

West said there was no reason to venture into that area.

“If they go in that area and get stuck, they got another friend because it’s just not worth the risk to me,” he said.

ODNR also is recommending against swimming until further notice because of the amount of debris still in the water. Additional buoys are being placed between Paradise Island east to Orchard Island and from Orchard Island east to Moundwood.

West also is coordinating the giveback of thousands of dollars his nonprofit has received from the community. The largess has sped up the recovery process.

West and others are eagerly anticipating the first big holiday of the spring season, which will help everyone emotionally.

“Memorial (Day) weekend honestly to be the first really good official time that everybody will probably put this behind them,” he said.

The March 14 tornado, 1,000 yards wide and on the ground for 31 miles, inflicted widespread devastation not only to the state park but also the neighboring communities. Three people were killed and 27 were injured.

“This has been an incredibly trying period for the Indian Lake community,” said Indian Lake State Park Manager Hiedie Whitman, who noted that the Indian Lake State Park campground will honor existing reservations, including those for the upcoming total solar eclipse.

“However, we have witnessed an outpouring of support from the community, local businesses and countless volunteers,” Whitman said. “While we are excited about the prospect of reopening the park, our thoughts are with this community, and we ask our visitors to respect our neighbors and friends during this terribly difficult time.”

Comments on this article