Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Blue Hole

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." ~ author unknown

When I was a kid in Ohio, I remember on at least two occasions going with my family and grandparents to a place called the Blue Hole near Sandusky. What I recall is a pond that seemed infinitely deep with water that was crystal clear and an unusual brilliant blue. There was something unique about it that had turned this spot into a popular tourist attraction.

I’d forgotten all about this place until yesterday, when I received an email containing a number of photos of unusually large holes, man-made and otherwise. One was a blue hole near Belize (left), which triggered this memory here of the Blue Hole in Castalia, Ohio. According to the Sandusky Register, “The natural springs were so prominent in the area that in 1836 the village was named for the Fons Castalius Fountain near Delphi, Greece.”

A quick Google search uncovered some interesting facts about this blue pond. It’s actually a giant spring, fed by subterranean waters that flow upward through deep limestone orifices, disgorging more than 7500 gallons of water per minute, or enough to supply a city of 75,000.

Supposedly divers have never reached the bottom of this Blue Hole, although this could be a myth to have made the spring more mysterious. I can imagine that I may have wondered if one could reach China through this waterway into the depths of the earth.

An interesting feature of the spring is that its waters contain no oxygen, thus it is unable to sustain life. In order for the stream it feeds to support trout and other aquatic creatures, it is aerated by waterwheels.

What I remember most about this blue hole was its depth and its stillness. It gave no hint that water was gushing from this hole. Rather, it seemed little more than an unusually blue pond that calmed you with its pleasingly placid restfulness. And the adults who came to see it were fascinated enough to go out of their way to be here. Castalia is not your typical waystop on the main drag.

Evidently the tourist traffic was not financially viable enough to cover the costs of making the Blue Hole wheelchair accessible. Thus, in 1990 or so they had to shut it down. Perhaps interest lagged because the culture has changed. Instead of natural wonders like the Badlands and Blue Holes, modern families prefer amusement park rides, water slides and megamalls. Maybe it’s just a cycle our culture is going through. Perhaps one day our children’s children will get bored with virtual gaming, online shopping and blogging… and will watch sunrises, enjoy estuaries, catch frogs, grasshoppers and lightning bugs, and discover anew the constellations that shimmer in the night sky.

"Open your eyes."


LEWagner said...

This article said that "The owners of the 500 acres on which the Blue Hole sits decided to close the doors rather than face the commercialization of the land necessary to compete."
I remember that back in the '60's, my dad wanted to have a Shetland pony ring to set up in supermarket parking lots, or at the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. He didn't plan to charge much or at all, but to do it as an advertisement for Wagner's Greenhouse. He went so far as to have the ring made, buy saddles, and train the ponies to walk in the ring. The thing that shut him down was mandated insurance.
I remember feeling kind of disappointed.

ENNYMAN said...

Yeah, I know what you mean.

LEWagner said...

I guess the point I was trying to slyly slip in there, is that mandated insurance (to be bought from the same insurance companies that pushed for laws to make insurance mandatory) may well have been a bigger factor in the closing of the Blue Hole than liberal wheel-chair accessibility.
$1000 would build a really nice concrete or redwood ramp that would last for many years, and actually serve a useful purpose: it would allow the halt and lame to enjoy the little things in life, along with their more fortunate neighbors.
Also, over a period of a few years, that cost would be recouped in fees charged to tourists. For example, say the Wagner family was traveling along through Ohio with Grandma Hoad in the van. Well, wouldn't the six of us be more likely to stop at the Blue Hole, if Grandma Hoad could go in too, instead of just five of us going in to enjoy the little things in life, and leaving her to stew in the van?
$1000 doesn't buy much insurance, though, and you gotta keep paying those premiums over, and over, and over again, forever. And then if something does happen, and you turn in a claim, the insurance companies will jack your rates up, or cancel and blackball you.
Which law is actually anti-business?

ENNYMAN said...

The same things have been happening all over with small businesses like Tom's Logging Camp and other such small business tourist attractions. Part of it is undoubtedly the cost of upkeep. Going into business was simple when things got started... regulation and license fees and taxes and insurance all add up. The amusement parks can charge a $50 admission ticket and cover all the fees, but the little guy is not able to raise his prices sufficiently, because there's just not enough there to keep the family engaged for very long.

I don't believe it's all one explanation but the combo of "progress"....