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 - The Advocate Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 Gorge...
The Advocate Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 Gorge Continued from Page 1A Burkholder lives in what commonly is known as Rock Haven Park, which is a collection of homes on Rock Haven Road just off of Toboso Road that includes ownership of a part of the Blackhand Gorge that includes Tunnel Rock and Blackhand Rock, which also is known as Council Rock. Since the 1990s, that portion the gorge specifically has been marked as private property. It is adjacent to state property on three sides. Until just a few months ago, it was misidentified as state property on the Licking County tax map. The property discussion for the 62.75-acre tract is more than 100 years old, and has two parts: The Rock Haven Park homes on top of the hill; and the former Columbus, Newark and Zanesville Electric Railway path that extends from Toboso Road through a tunnel in the hill. Undivided interest In 1905, Andrew Davidson sold the land that now is Rock Haven Park, running south to the Licking River, to William Snelling. A year later, Snelling sold it to Jesse Snelling. Jesse sold 25 acres to E.T. Kemper in 1914, who developed the northern section of homes. Jesse then developed the southern section of homes in 1921, and the area was platted with 200 small lots. "When it was platted, nothing was said about the park," Licking County Engineer Bill Lozier said. But lot owners also receive a 1200 interest of the undeveloped property south of the homes to the river, except for the 2.75 acres that is the former railway. There also are 10 acres to the north of the Rock Haven residents that they don't own an interest in. County Auditor Mike Smith said the property values in the Rock Haven Park . area appear to be inflated because of the interest in the open space, which itself doesn't have an attached value. Rock Haven Park is valued at about $6,840 per acre; V- lvr :-r--?&x&kHi$3 K':- -'?,wmrr- J Richard Burkholder holds his dog. Jib, on Friday as he looks over a cliff at the Licking River in Blackhand Gorge. He shares ownership of part of the area with other Rock Haven Park residents near Toboso. zach graythe advocate that is two or three times as much as similar properties nearby. "I have not performed any in-depth study of raw land in the area," Smith wrote in an email. "However, it appears that previous administrations in the auditor's office have treated this like 'green space' in a platted subdivision, where each parcel has added value for the green space or common area, leaving a $0 value for the common area." That interest is why some, including Burkholder, have bought into Rock Haven Park. "I bought a rundown shack that was overpriced," he said. "I moved here so I could rock climb here." 'What I have to give' Burkholder isn't climbing rocks anywhere anymore. He was in a motorcycle crash in 2010 that kept him in the hospital for almost a month. He sometimes uses a tree branch as a walking stick as he treks through the park area. Burkholder's home is across, the street from a path entrance on private property. That path takes walkers on top of Tunnel Rock, and down in front of it, where the property line between the state's land and Rock Haven residents' land sits. Since The Advocate's Oct. 16 article about the push to allow more public access to the path through the tunnel, Burkholder said he's seen an increase in people crossing that line which is on a path just down from the canal lock trail. Before his crash, Burkholder said he was much less amenable to letting any visitors through the tunnel. Now, as he stands on top of Black-hand Rock also known as Council Rock he looks over the river and smiles. "This is probably the best view in Licking County," he said. "I want to help, and I want to bring people out here. ... (It's) what I have to give to people." But Burkholder doesn't want to see the state government come in and take things over, placing fences and other markers that is . ': is" .i f . :. would take away the area's natural beauty. "We're trying to hold onto what we have here," he said. "Do we want fences? Do we want handrails?" Those who want to see the park opened up including Bill Weaver and Rick Piatt insist they want to keep the area mostly as-is; they just want to be able to allow more people to see it. Burkholder's other hesitation with encouraging more people to go through the tunnel is the parties and trash that already are brought to the space. As he began to walk down off of Council Rock, four 20-somethings with backpacks walked up. One backpack held beer; the other was empty, waiting for the beer to be drunk. "Do they know it's private property? Yeah, but they don't care," Burkholder said. He briefly spoke with the group, asked them to not leave any trash, and to get in touch with him before coming back. "It's not like we're these ogres running people off the property," Burkholder said. "I don't want to hide these things from people." 'The main issue' The ownership history of the former electric railway is a bit harder to determine than the rest of Rock Haven Park. "Whoever's hands it is in right now is germane to the question," Lozier said. "The ability to use the pathway is probably going to become the main issue." It is not Rock Haven residents' land; it was owned by the Columbus, Newark and Zanesville Electric Railway Company. A 30-mile interurban line from Newark to Zanesville was completed in 1904. It merged with another company to become the Southern Ohio Public Service Company in 1925, Lozier said. The stretch of road through Blackhand Gorge was given to Licking County Commissioners for the purpose of making it a county road in 1930. "If they didn't do that within 10 years, it reverts back (to the company)," Lozier said. "We didn't find any evidence that they exercised it." See RECORDS, Page 7A

Clipped from
  1. The Newark Advocate,
  2. 06 Nov 2011, Sun,
  3. Page 6

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