By Kristine Gill
Area state parks received grants this year for marine patrols through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft.
The Berlin Lake Marine Patrol of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office received $18,051 this year. Lake Milton, Mosquito Lake and West Branch state parks received $30,413. Grand Lake St. Marys State Park in Mercer County received $10,984.
Officer Todd Doncyson, law enforcement administrator for ODNR, said the grants are awarded annually, and about $576,000 is spent on them each year.
The fund was established in 1955 as the Waterways Safety Fund after a dramatic increase in the number of recreational boats after World War II to improve public facilities on Ohio waterways, according to the ODNR website.
Grants are awarded based on the need for marine patrols in a given area, the enforcement performance of the corresponding department and the experience and performance of the administration at the location.
Applicants must match at least 25 percent of their total program costs, and grants may be used for purchase, maintenance and operation of vessels, marine equipment, educational materials and personnel salaries.
Lake Milton State Park manager Barbara Neill said Milton has received the grant each of the past seven years.
“We hire two seasonal officers that patrol between the three lakes,” she said. “They do safety checks, give citations, hold educational programs. Those two positions are strictly seasonal.” Neill said the officers would be laid off if not for the grant, which covers their seasonal salaries.
In the past, Lake Milton and Mosquito Lake have received emergency boating access grants from ODNR to repair a point launch ramp in Lake Milton for $4,743 and a courtesy dock and boat-ramp lighting at Mosquito for about $18,615. This year, Mosquito Lake received $11,248 for boat-ramp lighting.
Chief Deputy James Lewandowski of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office said that the money awarded to Berlin Lake Marine Patrol will be used to staff two-man boat patrols on holidays and weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Part of those patrols involve watercraft law enforcement, dock safety, watercraft safety and watercraft-safety inspections, search and rescue missions and assistance to boaters as needed.
“We submit a grant application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources by Dec. 31 of each year,” Lewandowski said, adding that the grant application also highlights the patrol’s activity and accomplishments during the summer boating season. The patrol has applied every year since 1976, and Lewandowksi said the programs the grant funds couldn’t exist without it.
“We provide an important service to Mahoning County boaters, campers and other Berlin Lake visitors by helping keep people safe,” he said. “Without the state’s funding, which also supplies the actual boat, the sheriff could not afford to maintain such services that we have continually maintained since Sheriff Michael Yarosh held office in 1976.”