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Clark County Fairgrounds makes safety, health upgrades

The Clark County Fairgrounds recently obtained a campgrounds license after operating for several years without one outside fair week and also had been operating without Environmental Protection Agency approved sanitary hydrants.

The fairgrounds obtained a campgrounds license in April after being told it wouldn’t be allowed to operate the campgrounds this year without one. It also is in the process of upgrading to EPA-approved hydrants that ensure safe drinking water at the fairgrounds, health officials said.

The board of health began “very actively working” since last September or October with the fair officials to meet the safety standards needed to qualify for a campgrounds license, which included meeting several safety and health codes and obtaining the proper hydrants.

“We’re happier than we have been in a long time when it comes to the safety and the water supply at the fairgrounds. It’s a huge step in the right direction,” Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said. “They climbed the big hill to do all the things necessary to become licensed, now it’s a fairly innocuous action to get licensed year after year.”

Clark County commissioners approved plans last week to invest nearly $200,000 into fairgrounds upgrades, which included $15,000 for 63 camp sanitary hydrants.

The fairgrounds also received a $5,000 grant from the health district to fund upgrades for the hydrants.

The fairgrounds had been operating with yard hydrants that aren’t reliable for safe water used by campers and food service, said Larry Shaffer, director of environmental health for the Clark County Combined Health District.

“When you shut the hydrant off, they’re designed so that the water leaks out of the bottom of the hydrant and into the ground so that it doesn’t freeze in the winter time. Therefore, when you turn the hydrant back on it has the potential to siphon the water that came out of the hydrant back in and that’s not the best situation for drinking water,” Shaffer said.

Clark County Fair Executive Director Dean Blair said fair officials worked with the health district to improve safety at the fairgrounds.

Blair said the fairgrounds would have been forced to turn campers away that come for the equine shows and lost tourism dollars without the proper license.

It took the fairgrounds about five or six months to meet the requirements for a campgrounds license.

Before fair officials could receive the license, Shaffer said they had to submit plans to the Ohio Department Health, label campsites and get sewage dump stations installed to code.

“There were a lot of things to do to fulfill their plans and they did that in April,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer said health officials had talked to fair officials a few years ago before he took his position as director about the need for a campgrounds license, but “it wasn’t pressed as an issue.”

The campgrounds license improves safety at the fairgrounds, Shaffer said.

“It always improves safety when you have proper spacing, when you have assured clean water, when you have acceptable places to dispose of sewage. All these things increase the safety with the campgrounds,” he said.

The capital improvement funds also included upgrades to the roof on the Arts and Crafts as well as the Mercantile buildings, repairing concrete walls on the Mercantile Building, as well as making improvements to doors on the Youth, Mercantile and Arts and Crafts buildings.

Commissioners also in 2013 and 2014 supported a $180,000 plan to address safety concerns about the potential for rapidly spreading fire at fairgrounds campsites near the livestock barns. The initial estimates for the project in 2013 were $121,000.

The project created dozens of new campsites and updated or refurbished dozens of others to benefit the nearly year-round use of the fairgrounds. However, it required moving some campers who for years have used the sites nearest the livestock barns during the county fair.

Campers must be parked no less than two feet apart to allow firefighters space to move through the campsites in case of an emergency, but before the changes some of the campers had parked so close together, they actually touched each other, fair officials had said.

That project was completed before the start of the 2014 county fair.

Blair praised commissioners for investing in the fairgrounds.

“We’ve got such a wonderful asset here. We’ve got such a beautiful fairgrounds, it would be just terrible if we did not maintain and protect the investment that we all have here,” Blair said.

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