HOCKING HILLS — In December 2016, Hocking County suffered a great loss with the fire that destroyed the Hocking Hills Dining Lodge. It was a sad day for residents and tourists of the Hocking Hills as many watched the building become fully engulfed in flames.

The Lodge was the heart and soul of the Hocking Hills State Park since it first opened in 1972. It served not only local families and tourists, but also many organizations and agencies utilized the facility for parties, annual dinners and other events.

As many may recall, the building was a total loss to the county and until July of this year, the property remained vacant with only the memories of those who used to dine at the Lodge, or go on family outings to the swimming pool.

After almost four years of its demise, site preparation of the new Hocking Hills State Park Lodge began on July 1 with clearing and grading the site, demolition of the old pool, running utility lines, and preparing a foundation for the new water tower. Structural work, such as installation of footers, pilings, and concrete will begin over the next three months.

According to ODNR, construction milestones are being met, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, they anticipate the Lodge to be open and ready for overnight guests in October 2022.

The new Lodge will include an overnight wing, which features 81 rooms of varying types, from traditional guest rooms to a few suites.

The new Lodge will also feature indoor and outdoor dining on the terrace for an amazing dining experience.

ODNR noted that the new Lodge would feature a mixture of event spaces from small, informal break-out rooms on the mezzanine to a larger area in the lower level for weddings, banquets, or meetings. The lower level will have doors leading out onto a patio where the tree-lined gorge frames additional opportunities for smaller gatherings.

The final design of the Lodge is the result of many ideas and comments, all of which were appreciated and taken into consideration. ODNR worked closely with the architectural team from Schooley-Caldwell and together achieved a design that provides overnight guests and other visitors to the Lodge with a one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found in the Hocking Hills.

Hocking Lodge facts:

• Architectural firm: Schooley-Caldwell Associates

• Construction manager: Corna Kokosing Construction

• Square footage of Lodge and hotel: 73,550 square feet

• Cost: $35 million

• Anticipated opening to the public: October 2022

According to ODNR, the new Lodge is being constructed on the same footprint as the former Lodge/Restaurant, which burned down December 2016. The new facility will offer visitors dining and conference space, and a hotel wing.

Amenities include:

• Full-service restaurant

• Grab and go café

• Gift shop

• Indoor and outdoor event space

• Indoor and outdoor pools

Thousands of tourists flock to the Hocking Hills yearly for its lush green forests, hiking trails and the many waterfalls throughout the area. The Lodge was a favorite tourist attraction for its dining experience, and its proximity to the many trails, caves, and wildlife scenery.

Tourists and locals alike are anxiously awaiting the opening of the new Lodge.

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