ODNR to breach failing dam at Ponderosa Park


COLUMBUS — Using its emergency authority to protect public safety from a failing dam, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will begin to lower the dam at Ponderosa Park Resort, located five miles southeast of Canfield in Mahoning County.


ODNR officials had previously informed Ponderosa Park’s owners of deficiencies at the 21-foot-high earthen dam.

“When problems with dams are brought to our attention, either through periodic inspections or other means, we expect owners to respond to findings and address public safety issues,” said David Hanselmann, chief of ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Resources.

“Unfortunately, our warnings and orders have been ignored by the owners of Ponderosa Park; we have no choice but to exercise our authority to protect the public by ensuring downstream residents, roads and properties remain safe.”


A recent inspection at Ponderosa Park revealed that the dam has significant erosion and slippage, in addition to problems with the masonry spillway. State Route 45 is below the dam and a catastrophic failure of the dam could significantly damage the roadway, putting motorists at risk.

Adding to the urgency of rendering the dam safe through a controlled, designed lowering of the dam is the potential that a failure would send a significant amount of polluted sediment, which has accumulated behind the dam, into Meander Creek, harming aquatic life in and along the creek.

According to Hanselmann, the actions underway will lower the masonry spillway to the point where little water will normally be impounded, but most of the sediment will remain behind the dam. Current or future owners could restore the dam, but for now the work will result in the creation of a wetland, which will benefit the watershed.


The work, performed by the Great Lakes Construction Company, should be complete within a month. Some of the project’s cost has been covered by a Surface Water Improvement Fund grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

ODNR will seek restitution of all state funds expended from the owners of Ponderosa Park Resort. Several Mahoning County agencies have assisted ODNR in responding to this emergency situation including the county’s Emergency Management Agency, Health Departments and Soil and Water Conservation District.


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