Logan hopes to heal its lake

Written by Zach Zimmerman, Photos by Jamie Miller

With overgrown vegetation, sediment buildup and a broken dam valve, Lake Logan is ill.  

Bud Simpson, a columnist for the Logan Daily News, wrote about Lake Logan as it nears its 70th birthday and describes it as having “never seen a doctor.”   

“It is paying the price right now for its neglectful treatment. It is slowly dying,” Simpson wrote. “There are large parts of it that have mere inches of foul water covering it and many more with less than a foot of water depth. This has caused its waters to warm considerably and those areas are now prime breeding grounds for weeds and the explosively invasive American Lotus.”    

Carol Mackey was one of various Logan citizens who had attempted contacting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to express concerns about the state of Lake Logan but wasn’t getting anywhere.      

“It’s just a period of, really, neglect. Individuals had, over a period of time, called the state parks manager, called other responsible people within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and were getting nowhere,” Mackey says. “Not that [the officials] were bad people or not doing their job. We like our state park manager a great deal — it’s just that he can only do so much.”     

Maria Diaz Myers, another resident who lives near Lake Logan, moved to Logan in January 2023. Originally, she thought the lake looked OK — pardoning some dead lily pads — so she says she was surprised when by late May, parts of the lake by her house looked like a swamp.     

“I’m looking through my window thinking, ‘What the hell happened? It’s a swamp!’ And my neighbors were telling me, ‘Oh, no, you have no idea how bad this gets.’ It really does become a swamp,” Diaz Myers says.     

Eventually, one of the property owners called a meeting of residents who lived near the lake, Mackey says. Only starting out with around 12 people, everyone expressed the same concerns about what needed to happen to save the lake.      

Many of the lakes in Ohio are man-made and are owned by the state of Ohio. They are part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ state parks and watercraft division. Most were constructed in the mid-1950s. Lake Logan, for example, was erected in 1955.      

But in recent years, the lake has faced increasing problems, such as a receding shoreline and decreased depth. Problems have been exacerbated by a lack of maintenance in recent years. This results in overgrown vegetation due to the lake being filled with runoff and animal waste caused by organic material, Diaz Myers says. Last July, ODNR had planned to dredge the lake of excess silt. The plan was ultimately halted because there was not an adequate “dredge material relocation area,” according to the Logan Daily News.    

By October 2023, the group of concerned residents formed the Lake Logan Association and eventually created a petition to save the lake — it now has over 4,500 signatures. The Association has since had a meeting with the chief of ODNR’s division of state parks and watercraft.     

“When we had our first meeting with Chief Cobb and his staff, I asked the question, ‘Is it the state’s intent to restore this lake for recreational purposes, or do you want it to be converted to a wetland?’” Mackey said. “And without hesitation, [Cobb’s staff] said, ‘We want to restore it.’”     

The idea of a civic association working to restore the lake alongside ODNR and local government is one that Diaz Myers says has worked in the past. Elsewhere in Ohio, associations like the Buckeye Lake Area Civic Association and the Lake Improvement Association for Grand Lake have worked to represent the best interests of their lakes.     

Listed in the petition, the Lake Logan Association offers three main solutions for the lake’s restoration.     

The first would be the dredging of the lake. The petition calls for removing years of accumulation of sediment from the lake to return it to its original depth. But Diaz Myers and the Lake Logan Association want a more sustainable, long-term solution beyond dredging.   

“Dredging is like having surgery. And then if you go and you keep eating poorly, and you keep smoking, and you keep having this sedentary life, you’re going to keep having the same issue,” Diaz Myers says.       

The Association calls for a “Long-Term Lake Management Plan” in the petition, ensuring timely maintenance, water quality testing and vegetation growth control. Finally, the Association wants the dam that serves as an outlet valve in the south end of the lake to be repaired. The petition also states that it is a necessity for the lake to be lowered to a winter pool, impairing vegetation growth and minimizing damage to boat docks.     

First and foremost, the biology in a stream tells the story of the water quality almost better than anything else,” Nathan Schlater, a senior director of ecological restoration with Rural Action, says.    

There are a number of things that would be looked at for testing the water quality — one being the species living in the lake. Using indexes and protocol used by the EPA, a qualitative score of the water quality can be determined to see if there are any issues, Schlater says.    

“Say […] we look at the data and it says the fish population at this site wasn’t what it should be. Well, that immediately tells us that there’s probably a water quality concern,” Schlater says.    

Main areas that a group, such as Rural Action’s watersheds team for example, would look at to determine water quality for a body of water like Lake Logan include the biology, bacteria in the water and its chemistry.    

“For chemistry, for areas where there’s abandoned mine land issues, we look at PH, we look at dissolved oxygen, we look at total suspended solids, I mean really we look at these in all areas. In mine areas, specifically, we look at iron and aluminum and manganese and acidity, and all of these different chemical parameters that say ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on in the water, and maybe here’s where it’s coming from,’” Schlater says.     

While the association’s members feel strongly about the importance of rehabilitating the lake, they acknowledge there are those who feel otherwise. Diaz Myers says she has encountered Logan residents who believe the lake is beyond saving. But while there may be those who feel taxpayer money shouldn’t go toward the lake, Diaz Myers believes it is a “vocal minority” of people. She estimates that over 80% of Logan residents want to save the lake and extend its lifespan.     

“There is the opinion, there are a few, who think the lake is beyond saving at this point. They don’t want taxpayer money spent on this. Respectfully, we disagree,” Diaz Myers says.    

Mackey and Diaz-Myers both emphasize the importance of Logan residents getting involved and standing up for their town’s interests, particularly when it comes to spending tax dollars on projects like Lake Logan.     

“People aren’t accustomed to standing up and actively advocating for the community interest. I have seen that shift occur in my 28 years here,” Mackey says. “Community leaders are getting bolder and more aggressive in asking for our fair share.”    

Regardless, the Lake Logan Association views restoring the lake as an important matter for many reasons. Aside from economic matters like property rentals and tourism, fishing and the balance of flora and fauna around the lake could be negatively affected.     

This is all in addition to a loss of natural beauty.      

At this point, if we don’t do anything about it, maybe we have 10 years left, and then you drive by it and it’s going to be a swamp. I’m telling you as it is,” Diaz Myers says. Restoration and maintenance, however, could extend the lake’s life and continue to protect the beauty of Lake Logan.