Governor Bob Taft today announced that the Ohio Department of
Natural Resources (ODNR) has agreed to purchase 123.54 acres of lakefront property on
Middle Bass Island in Lake Erie, protecting an increasingly rare expanse of coastal open
space and providing a major new addition to Ohio's State Parks system. Taft made the
announcement at Maumee Bay State Park, on the Lake Erie shore east of Toledo.
Signing an agreement to acquire the site of the former Lonz winery on Middle Bass
Island for $6.75 million, Taft described the property as "...one of the largest
and most significant stretches of Ohio's Lake Erie coast to come onto the market in many
He praised the site for its fine natural features, which include nearly one mile of
Lake Erie shoreline, a harbor and 212-boat marina, natural areas with endangered plant and
wildlife species, wetlands and unique geological features known as glacial grooves.
"Unspoiled coastal properties of this size and significance become available
perhaps only once in a lifetime, presenting the State of Ohio with a extraordinary
opportunity to protect an exceptional and threatened resource for this and future
generations," Taft said. "As a significant addition to our Ohio State Parks
system, this acquisition will provide new opportunities for family-oriented outdoor
recreation and enhance the region's important tourism-based economy."
The property, which includes the former Lonz winery, will be purchased from the Middle
Bass Development Corporation and Mantey-Mon-Ami-Lonz Wineries Corporation. Robert
Gottesman, a principal owner of the two corporations, passed away earlier this year after
initial discussions were underway for sale of the property. The governor said that the
purchase price is considerably less than the property's market value, thus representing a
generous gift by the Gottesman family and other owners to the people of Ohio. He thanked
the sellers for their generosity, which he said will benefit generations of Ohio families.
ODNR Director Sam Speck said that the department plans to manage the
property as part of Lake Erie Island State Park, which also includes parks at Kelleys
Island, South Bass Island and Catawba Island.
Speck said that ODNR will begin developing a land-use plan for the property once the
acquisition has been approved by the State Controlling Board. Transfer of the Middle Bass
Island property to state ownership will not be completed until late 2000.
"The potential for expanded recreational opportunities on Middle Bass Island are
enormous," Speck said. "The marina and harbor facilities will provide an
immediate benefit to Lake Erie boaters and those who travel between the islands."
He said that other initial plans for the new state park area include improved fishing
access, day-use recreation facilities and nature trails, while long-range plans could
include campgrounds, swimming beaches and other facilities.
Included on the property is the Lonz winery building, listed on the National Register
of Historical Places in 1986. The winery has not been in production since the early 1970s,
but has been operated in recent years as a retail outlet and tourist attraction. The
present owners will operate the facility in its current capacity for the remainder of the
2000 season, but those operations will cease under state ownership, according to Speck. He
said that ODNR will study other uses for the building, perhaps for overnight
accommodations or as a conference and educational center.
Middle Bass Island is located 11 miles north of Port Clinton, in the western basin of
Lake Erie. The Bass Islands