Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blackhand Gorge, The North Side Story

In June, I wrote about Blackhand Gorge and its amazing scenery coupled with a wide variety of history lessons.  A few days ago, I wrote a second blog about the North Side. I felt an obligation to remove my second blog and post this one in its place.

This is me eating some crow.

Author Aaron Keirns got in touch with me after my first blog and alerted me to his book, Black Hand Gorge, A Journey Through Time. His message alerted me to the things I was missing just visiting the trail on the South Bank of the Licking River as I always had. I was inspired to learn more.

I picked the book up and the day after skimming through some photos and reading captions in the book, I brought my kids to the "Canal Trail" on the north side.

No bikes here. No pets, apparently, either. The stroller wouldn't have made it either, so this was not a trek we could have made until recent years anyway.

Beyond that, confusion prevails.

After my second blog on this, I was alerted to property and ODNR policy issues that, as a visitor, I was not familiar. Since then, I conversed with an ODNR official who asked that I clarify what can actually be done in the North Side. I'm doing that now. Clarifying.

The South Bank side has a recreational trail along where the B&O Railroad line went. There's a path to an old quarry and a railroad cut along with an operating railroad bridge. You can see Black Hand Rock too. Quite a bit to see and stories to tell.

The North Bank side has more.

Its where the Ohio & Erie Canal enters the gorge from the east. Lock 16 is still there. You can walk right into it.

After that, be aware. I regret to convey from the ODNR that visitors can't go anywhere beyond there.

A series of posts and wooden planks blocks the old Gorge Road that Keirns' book mentions. The ODNR official tells me that, despite the lack of signage, that signage should be there that says you need a permit to go beyond the posts. That permit is desired so that ODNR can alert you to the lack of state ownership of the tunnel and access to the Black Hand Rock.

There are no signs saying "No Trespassing" to alert you to the ownership issue. Only ODNR-posted signs that really don't tell you anything but say "private property." ODNR says they won't post no trespassing because it's not their job to post such a sign, it's the owners job.

Wow, what a shame. In the span of a half mile--canal, rail, and early roadway history is preserved. No one can go there though.

We need to fix a few things.

For one, ODNR claims that the County's mapping system is incorrect. It shows "State of Ohio" ownership of the location of the tunnel and the Black Hand Rock. ODNR documents state there are private property owners related to a nearby subdivision. Thus, despite what the online tax maps show, the tunnel and the acreage above and adjacent to the tunnel are not owned by the State.

The big green glob that shows the parcel is state owned, apparently, is not correct.

So, where do we go from here?

For one, now that I've had the property issue clarified for me, I can't encourage anyone to go see these things because they would, likely, be trespassing. A visit to the North Bank side is still worth it for Ohio & Erie Canal Lock 16 alone, though.

Secondly, I'm motivated to see what could be done to fix this. It's clear that its complex as heck, but modest property acquisition and trail restoration are not insurmountable problems given what would result--public access to some amazing, preserved historical assets.

My kids will never forget the amazing things they saw.  Nor will I.  Some day, we'd like the chance to go back.

Aaron Keirns' preface in his book sums it up best:  "In Black Hand Gorge, history and legend live side by side." Scenery too.

No comments:

Post a Comment