THORNVILLE — After several years of planning, donations, repairs and maintenance, Perry County residents and others can welcome a new addition to the Buckeye Lake region in the form of the new sternwheeler, the Queen of the Lake.
According to the Buckeye Lake Historical Society Board President and Perry County Juvenile Court Judge Luanne Cooperrider, the newly restored Queen of the Lake III is almost ready for public tours. With its soon to be public introduction, the new boat in Buckeye Lake will give the area additional tourism which has been the goal of some groups working in the region.
“It’s a game changer for tourism,” Cooperrider told The Perry County Tribune. “As a member of the board… it’s been difficult.”
Cooperrider added that the sternwheeler boat had been donated by Dr. Ron and Cindy Downing of McConnellsville five years ago. During that same year in 2015, the water levels at Buckeye Lake were lowered due to the structural integrity of the lake’s dam.
According to articles previously written by sister paper The Logan Daily News, the water levels of the lake were lowered to winter standards in April of 2015. According to the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE), the dam’s integrity was in the threat of a catastrophic failure which prompted water levels to decrease for repairs.
“So we’ve been working on (the boat) for a long time and our faithful members have helped us along the way with fundraisers and things like that,” Cooperrider said.
According to the historical society board president, the boat is an 88 foot sternwheeler which is a steamer propelled by a wheel positioned towards the rear of the boat.
“It turned out really well,” Cooperrider said. “We have over 10,000 volunteer hours in this boat from welding and painting to all kinds of things.”
For those who donated to the sternwheeler, they were given tours of the boat which is now operational in Buckeye Lake just this past week. Cooperrider commented that donors practice social distancing and wore facial covering during the tours.
Public tours are scheduled to take place in August so that locals from Licking, Fairfield and Perry Counties can take a look at the new tourism attraction.
“Let’s say a wedding or somebody wanted to rent it for a dinner cruise, you’d be able to privately rent the boat,” Cooperrider commented.
Cooperrider added that while public tours are set for August, there are still some kinks to be worked out on the sternwheeler prior to the public getting access. In the future, locals can call the museum at 740-929-1998 for information regarding the boat.
The five year restoration saw many challenges along the way, according to Judge. Funding for the project all came from donations and volunteer hours as well as constantly applying for grants. The board is happy to finally see its long awaited project come to life.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Cooperrider said.
When the boat was first donated, it had to be transported from the Muskingum River. The historical society then hired a moving company which placed it in Buckeye Lake where it remained for three to four years. It also stayed in the Millersport Marina where it was finished.
During these uncertain times, Cooperrider stated that she hopes this will bring more happiness and tourism to the area. According to the Buckeye Lake Regional Corporation who donated $25,000 to the project, it hopes that the sternwheeler will serve as an “ambassador to the revitalized Buckeye Lake region.”