COLUMBUS, OH – Six Ohio State Parks and one State Nature Preserve have received Service Excellence Awards, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The awards are based on customer feedback, including customer satisfaction surveys, and are given annually to individual parks in recognition of outstanding facilities, helpful staff and friendly volunteers.
Best Day Use: Lake Milton State Park
Lake Milton State Park in Mahoning County was ranked by visitors as the best day-use park in the state park system. Lake Milton’s well-maintained picnic facilities are a perennial favorite with state park users. The park’s lakeside trails, pleasant beach with basketball and sand volleyball courts, and the new Nature & Arts stage for park and community programs also contributed to the enthusiastic customer reviews.
Jackson Lake State Park in Jackson County was visitors’ top choice among state parks with campgrounds offering fewer than 100 campsites. The peaceful park has 34 roomy campsites with 50-amp electrical hookups. Recent improvements include a new campground amphitheater which hosts local entertainers and community events as well as park programs. Volunteer groups including the FRIENDS of Jackson Lake group, which spearheaded the amphitheater project, are active in the park and provide a number of valuable services. Volunteer camper hosts make campers feel welcome, and local groups and businesses join the FRIENDS in maintaining trails and cleaning up litter, keeping the lake free of nuisance weeds, and planting flowers to beautify the park. The campground flanks the serene 107-acre lake, which is ideal for paddling, fishing and swimming.
The highest ranked state park campground offering more than 100 campsites, but fewer than 200, is at Harrison Lake State Park in Fulton County. Campers continue to enjoy positive experiences in the well-maintained campground that offers 140 sites with 50-amp electrical hookups, plus 24 non-electric sites. Creature comforts include hot showers, flush restrooms, laundry facilities and a well-stocked camp store. A campers’ beach and boat launch are handy for campers who want to cool off or fish in the 105-acre lake. Bike rentals, volleyball and basketball courts, and horseshoe pits provide more for camping families to do. Volunteer camper hosts help provide programs and activities to keep kids happy and busy. Harrison Lake received the highest overall campground ratings from customers in 2007.
Best Large Campground: West Branch State Park
Campers are still delighted with the renovations to West Branch State Park‘s campground, which was ranked as the top state park campground with more than 200 campsites. Located in Portage County, the facility offers many amenities campers love including 155 sites with 50-amp electric hook-up, 29 full service sites, heated showers, flush toilets and laundry facilities. Several lakeside sites along with a boat launch ramp in the campground appeal to campers who come with boats in tow to enjoy the 2,600-acre, unlimited horsepower lake. Naturalist programs and the nature center are popular with campers, and the park’s mountain biking, hiking and bridle trails offer opportunities to explore the park. West Branch also received the highest overall ratings for camping from customers in 2008.
Among park guests who spent the night in an Ohio State Park lodge and conference center, those who stayed in the Mohican State Park lodge in Ashland County gave the most enthusiastic reviews. This top ranked facility combines comfortable accommodations, friendly service and a beautiful outdoor setting. There are 96 air-conditioned rooms, each with a private balcony and color television, and the lodge is equipped with private meeting and banquet rooms, dining room, sauna, gift shop, lounge, and an Olympic-size indoor and outdoor pools.
As for the other eight state parks with lodge and conference centers, park visitors also gave top ratings to Geneva State Park in Ashtabula County. In addition to the luxurious lodge where park visitors can enjoy a delicious meal with a stunning lake view, the park offers a gorgeous Lake Erie beach and popular Lake Erie boating facilities. The campground has 89 electric sites and four full hook-up sites along with hot showers and flush restrooms. Twelve lakeside cedar cabins offer all of the comforts of home. A new multi-use trail links the park facilities, making it easy to walk or pedal from place to place.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in Greene County was selected for recognition by ODNR officials for the preserve manager’s excellent work in providing the right balance between protecting the natural resources and accommodating visitors. The 268-acre preserve encompasses a 2-mile stretch of the headwaters of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. The preserve’s streamside trail takes hikers past sparkling waterfalls and interesting rock formations, while the rim trail affords spectacular views of the limestone cliffs. The area is known for its abundance of wildflowers and unusual cool climate plants.
“Happy visitors are our bread and butter, and visitor feedback is an important tool to help us evaluate what we are doing well, and where we can improve,” said John Hunter, acting chief of Ohio State Parks. “As we gear up for the busy summer season, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate our success in achieving our primary mission.”
Ohio State Parks’ Service Excellence Award winners are determined by surveys completed by park visitors. More than 9,700 survey cards were returned last year, and nearly 94 percent of those who responded rated their overall visit as excellent or good. To be eligible for the award, a park must receive at least 100 survey responses. The awards were presented during the annual Ohio State Parks Managers Conference at Hocking Hills State Park.
More than 53 million visitors enjoyed the natural beauty and quality facilities of Ohio’s state parks last year. The park system is home to nine resort lodges, more than 500 cottages, six golf courses and 56 family campgrounds with more than 9,000 campsites. For additional information, visitwww.ohiostateparks.org.