COLUMBUS -- Ohio boaters and state park users will soon have a single point of contact when dealing with the state agency that oversees watercraft regulation, under legislation signed into law by Gov. John Kasich Tuesday.
The governor added his signature to SB 293, one in a series of mid-biennium review bills passed by lawmakers last month, during a public ceremony at a central Ohio marina.
"The public is going to get better protection, we're going to spend less money on bureaucracy and more money on the meat and potatoes of the parks so that people can have a better time when they go to the parks, whether it's better cabins, whether it's better bathrooms, whether it's better trails, whatever it is," Kasich said. "Saving money by reducing bureaucracy and silos is good but also the ability to get law enforcement to work together is really significant because it provides greater protection and security for the public.
He added, "Why this wasn't done a hundred years ago, I don't know."
Tuesday's ceremony was Kasich's third public event in Ohio since exiting the presidential race last month. He's been busy behind closed doors in recent days signing legislation forwarded to his office by lawmakers before they recessed for the summer.
Among other provisions, SB 293 combines the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' divisions of parks and recreation and watercraft into a single office, the Division of Parks and Watercraft.
Under the previous setup, the separate offices have operated in single state parks, including providing their own officers to patrol different areas. Under the law changes signed Tuesday and set to take effect in late September, one office will handle all watercraft and park oversight, eliminating patrol barriers in the process.
"Boating and water sports are some of the most popular activities at Ohio state parks, and virtually all 74 state parks have recreational waters in them," said Jim Zehringer, ODNR director. "The reasons to merge parks and watercraft were quite simple. It provides users a one-stop shop for their recreational needs. It will combine multiple offices that are sometimes in communities miles from the nearest park, saving on rent, phone and utility bills as well as IT service. It will allow boaters to register their boat at the same place they plan on boating, and it will provide better and faster customer service."
Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) carried the legislation in the Ohio Senate.
"It's a common sense proposal that was designed to reduce overhead costs, eliminate redundancies in services and create more efficient avenues for Ohioans to make the most of [the state's] natural resources," he said.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.