Much like other Morrow County infrastructure, Mount Gilead State Park’s dam system was in need of an upgrade.
As part of ongoing park improvement projects, such as campground renovations, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources closed a large portion of MGSP to complete its dam rehabilitation and improvement project.
Originally constructed in 1929 and 1930 respectively, the state park’s current upper and lower dam reconstruction is part of ODNR’s efforts to bring the state’s dams into the 21st century.
“The state owns and maintains 117 regulated dams statewide,” said ODNR engineering communications manager John Wisse. “Of those 117, 56 are designated as Class I dams.”
That classification is designated for infrastructure areas that are found by the state to be have high-risk hazard potential, meaning possible failure could result in the structural collapse of at least one residence or one commercial or industrial business, and as well as probable loss of human life.
The lower dam at Mount Gilead State Park was classified as such, and current reconstruction is part of ODNR’s Capital Improvement Program, which allows the governmental agency to develop, rehabilitate, improve and expand its property.
“People here can be assured they will be getting a high-quality improvement of the park’s dams and that the wildlife division of ODNR will be restocking the lake’s fish. The park will continue with the improvements that have already been made,” Wisse said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
To complete the project, the state agency contracted with the engineering firm of Michael Baker International for design work and Mosser Construction, Inc., of Fremont, Ohio, for the project’s construction operation.
“The project not only allows to rebuild the rebuilding of the dams, but also gives us an opportunity for complete lake rehabilitation,” Wisse said.
The renovation may seem simple enough, however, it is anything but.
The lake at Mount Gilead State Park was constructed by damming the Sams Creek. Subsequently, the small body of water, over time, supplied enough water to give area residents the popular recreational area.
To rebuild the dam, the construction team first needed to de-water the 80-year old lake. And as park goers know, the body of water served as a popular fishing spot for area anglers due to the extensive fish population, which needed to be relocated from the lake before it was completely drained.
In order to get the fish moving, the construction team began slowly removing the lake water.
“We did a controlled demolition of the spillway to get the fish over,” Mosser Construction, Inc. project engineer Jim Leahy said. “We then continued to drain the lake until they were all out.”
“There was about a 12-hour period in which 75 percent of the fish went over (the spillway),” Michael Baker International civil engineer Jacob Bench said.
From there the migrating fish were caught in nets and moved to the Whetstone Creek where they continued to the Delaware Reservoir, a spot Wisse said will be likely be a fishing hot-spot as the weather warms next spring.
Upon completing the de-watering process, the construction team has demolished the existing dam and diverted the Sams Creek to remove lake sediment and eventually pour concrete for the new dam sometime in the coming months.
“We will be working on the concrete work over the winter and earth work during the spring,” Leahy said.
Along with the work done on the lake, the construction outfit has removed a section of trees around the lower dam area, which has spawned questions from area residents.
“Most of the questions we get are about the trees,” Leahy said. “They were removed so we could utilize the clay material for the new dam.”
Usage of the cleared area will be determined upon project completion, but Bench said a primitive camping area is one of the possibilities park officials are considering.
The concrete portion of the upper dam is being lowered and resurfaced and will no longer be a regulated spillway once the project is finished.
The large project is set to be completed late 2017 Wisse estimated, but the tentative timetable can change based on weather conditions that could affect the construction schedule.
For project updates, the public can go to the ODNR website at http://engineering.ohiodnr.gov/dam-risk-reduction-program/current-projects/mt-gilead-dam