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Old State Park: Portage Lakes

Old State Park: Portage Lakes

New Docks



Old State Park needed a design solution and update for their facilities that was cost effective, environmentally sound, and would provide park goers with an enjoyable experience.

Services Involved

  • Architectural Design
  • Civil Engineering
  • Construction Administration
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Planning
  • Geotechnical Inspection
  • Inspection
  • Planning
  • Structural Engineering
  • Survey


2007 Honor Award

American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Ohio

Old State Park – Portage Lakes

When the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) decided to direct valuable resources to improvements at the Old State Park area of Portage Lakes State Park, the plans were met enthusiastically by users of the park, including fishing enthusiasts, picnickers, recreational boaters, and thousands of people who simply enjoy having the refuge of a state park nestled within this urban and suburban location in Summit County.


Portage Lakes is named for the eight-mile portage trail between the navigable waters leading north to Lake Erie and south to the Ohio River. When the overland path was made obsolete by the construction of canals in the early nineteenth century, the lakes themselves increased in importance. Several of the lakes were created as reservoirs to feed the canals and maintain adequate water depth for navigation, and served this important purpose for nearly a century. Between the abandonment of the canals in 1913 and the creation of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 1949, the lakes were used as a water supply to local industry and for recreational purposes.

Time for Improvements

For a period of 25 years, no capital improvements had been made to the Old State Park facility. Access roadways were narrow and in very poor condition, with deteriorated asphalt and large trees growing up through the pavement. Parking areas were subsiding and in some areas were slowly sliding into the lake. The existing comfort facilities were very uncomfortable, to say the least. The pit latrines often attracted wildlife and insects, and were in constant need of maintenance.


Boaters were inconvenienced by the absence of launch ramps, and were required to launch their boats from the deteriorated asphalt parking lot and wide gravel aprons that extended into the water. Access for early morning and late night fishing was difficult because there was no lighting at the ramps.


Many of the problems with the site were caused by the poor soil conditions, which consist of a high level of peat and organic material. Soil erosion was a primary concern for the Department, for reasons of impaired recreational use and of environmental protection.




Once the decision was made to improve the Park, the ODNR retained ms consultants to perform the planning and design of the upgrades. The firm made an in-depth investigation into the Department’s present and future needs for the site, carefully considering how to provide a design solution that would be cost-effective, environmentally sound, and would provide the users of the park with an enjoyable recreational experience.


Accomplishing these goals required ms to balance complex technical issues such as soil conditions and wastewater treatment options with usability and aesthetic considerations.


The improvements have made the site almost unrecognizable in comparison to the previous conditions.

Final project improvements:

  • Construction of a new three-lane boat launch ramp, composed of a steel cofferdam utilizing perimeter sheeting, a 12-inch concrete-filled steel-pipe pile foundation, and cast-in-place concrete abutments and ramp slabs.
  • To counteract the boggy soil conditions, ms recommended shoreline protection be provided through the use of a 500-foot long PZ-27 sheet-pile bulkhead wall 45 feet deep. A secondary 15-foot-deep anchor pile wall to increase stability was installed 50 feet behind the bulkhead wall and was connected to it using tie bars. In addition to providing permanent shoreline protection, the wall increased usability for boaters through the 21-inch freeboard height and installation of boat tie-up rings on the piling cap along the shoreline. Significant shoreline dredging was performed after installation of the sheet-pile wall to increase the water depth and enhance navigability near the shore and to the lake.
  • New site access roads and separate parking areas were designed to accommodate cars and recreational vehicles with boat trailers. The pavement design incorporated a complex geogrid reinforcing system in several areas to minimize the potential for subsidence. Pavement striping and signage was added to assist park patrons with traffic flow patterns. The launch ramp area also included new area lighting fixtures so the facilities are safer and easier to use before sunrise and after dark.
  • The 1,350-square-foot Walker Pavilion, dedicated in honor of former Park Manager Steve Walker, is a picnic shelterhouse with concrete slab floor, separate bank lighting, and is available for family gatherings and group function rental.
  • The two old pit latrines have been replaced with one new decorative-concrete-faced restroom building with handicap-accessible facilities, as well as drinking fountains and vending machines. The existing water supply well was rehabilitated and a new on-site sewage disposal system was constructed in conjunction with the new restroom facility. The new sewage system includes two septic tanks in series, a dosing pump station, a surface sand filter mound system, and an 800-foot-long leach field.


For all of these improvements, ms provided design services, environmental permitting and regulatory compliance, construction plans and specifications, bidding assistance, construction contract administration, and construction inspection.

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