Sandusky Bay Barge Party controversy - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Sandusky Bay Barge Party controversy

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Thousands are expected to head out to the Sandusky Bay Barge Party on Saturday for music and fun in the sun, but an e-mail sent by a supervisor with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources warning other law enforcement about “armed militia” has the event organizer fighting back.

"We're not in the militia,” says Shaun Bickley. “We don't carry guns. This is a friendly, boater-friendly party."

Bickley, the owner of the Cover Carryout fueling station and Shepherd’s Shoreline Construction, started the Sandusky Bay Barge Party seven years ago on the sandbar between Cedar Point and Marblehead.

In anticipation of Saturday’s event, ODNR’s Sandusky-area supervisor Jeff Nehls sent an e-mail to dozens of law enforcement officers in the area saying an, “ODNR Watercraft Officer was informed by a reliable source (who wishes to remain anonymous) that there may be armed militia individuals providing security for Shaun Bickley. Other information is that the ‘militia’ person(s) own a boat. It is unknown if these individuals will be carrying openly or concealed.”

Bickley says he is calling everyone, including the Coast Guard, claiming this may be because he has butted heads with law enforcement in the past.

"I filed an official complaint against Jeff Nehls,” says Bickley. “Jeff Nehls is a liar."

13abc tried several times to speak with Nehls with no success.  However, in Columbus a DNR spokesperson released a statement saying, "Watercraft was providing information to better ensure the safety of the public and officers in advance of an event that, in the past, has required some intervention from law enforcement."

 "We don't believe he's engaged in any type of activity like that,” says Sandusky Police Chief John Orzech.

Orzech says he has known Bickley for 30 years and doesn’t have any concerns.

"As far as I know, Shaun's trying to put on a nice event for boaters and the people of Ottawa County,” says Chief Orzech.

 "Everybody wants a safe party,” says Bickley. “I want a safe party. Do I think they're going to be out in full force? Yes. I want a sober skipper out there just like the rest of them. But do I think we're going to get hammered tomorrow? Yes, ma’am."

 Several hours after sending the first e-mail, ODNR sent a second one saying, “Shaun Bickley has contacted local law enforcement concerning 'militia' comments. According to Mr. Bickley, he has not hired any security or ‘militia’ personnel for this weekend’s upcoming Barge Party.”


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