GLOUSTER - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is looking at a new business model for the shuttered lodge at Burr Oak State Park as it works to reopen the facility.
"Currently we're in negotiations and internal conversations about what would be the best plan for the lodge," said Bethany McCorkle, ODNR spokeswoman.
She said the agency is hoping to make an announcement about the lodge soon, but is taking the time to make sure it has the right approach.
The 60-room lodge closed at the end of January after losing money in recent years and seeing its business cut nearly in half from 2001 to 2010. An estimated 40 people worked at the lodge at that time, although ODNR indicated it might hire some of them to operate cabins at the park.
The park itself, located in the hills of Athens, Morgan and Perry counties, remains open for overnight stays in cottages, camping, hiking and more.
ODNR officials are looking at ways to drum up business for the lodge by making the park itself more of a destination. Some of the options being considered are adding all-terrain vehicle trails, a zipline system and paintball, but no official announcements have been made, McCorkle said.
"They're just conceptual ideas," she said.
Those additions also could make operating the lodge more attractive to a company like Colorado-based Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which previously operated the lodge. Xanterra did not submit a bid to continue running the facility this year and there were no other bidders.
McCorkle said even the concept of having an outside entity operate the lodge is being examined.
"We are committed to Burr Oak and the future of the lodge and the park in general," she said.
Morgan County Commissioner Mike Reed said having the lodge open again would be good for the county, in terms of the jobs that would be saved and the bed tax revenue that could be regained.
"That would be tremendous," he said.
Revenue from the tax assessed on overnight stays at Burr Oak accounts for 85 percent of the Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual budget of about $30,000.
Reed said he's heard about the possibility of ATV trails and thinks they would be a draw to people inside and outside of Morgan County.
"I think it's going to depend on the quality," he said.