SHERRODSVILLE -- The financially strapped Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center will not reopen and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) will focus on development of the future recreational use of the 500-acre property located in Carroll County.
In a 3-2 vote, members of the MWCD Board of Directors approved the demolition of the 46-year-old main lodge building and golf pro shop during a special session held Thursday (June 30) to discuss the resort. 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 David L. Parham of Carroll County 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 was spending about $50,000 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.
The Board's action does not affect Atwood Lake Park or the two marinas located on Atwood Lake.
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. However, the losses incurred by the MWCD, together with the risks associated with further investment of time and substantial capital by the MWCD divided the Board of Directors in its decision to not pursue development of this kind.
"We understand the sense of disappointment and loss that the community around Atwood Lake Resort shares in this decision," said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary. "There has been a tremendous effort offered by local, state and federal officials and their staffs, and by the residents of the region, and we cannot thank them enough for their time and input.
"However, the MWCD now has been directed to focus its attention at the former Atwood Lake Resort property on creating and executing a plan more closely related to our core mission that will enhance the Atwood Lake community. One of the key components to the core mission of the MWCD is the enhancement of outdoor recreational opportunities. We are excited about what the potential holds for this beautiful property at Atwood Lake."
Board members agreed to leave intact at this time the 17 four-bedroom vacation cabins located across from the main entrance to the resort, the "chalet" building that formerly housed a snack shop, games and served as the shop for the par-3 golf course, the residence at the golf course and the golf course maintenance building for further evaluation of the property.
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 information about the MWCD, visit www.mwcd.org and on Facebook.