Burr Oak Getaways: Sharing a Hidden Gem in Southeast Ohio

Trail Towns Continue to see Revitalization around the Outdoor Economy


Mark and Emma Brunton of Burr Oak Getaways stand outside one of their rentals as they give a tour to ACEnet’s staff, Chris Quolke, the Small Business Support Specialist and Trainer, and Bailey Grenert, the Project Coordinator & Trainer.

With the construction of the Baileys Trail System in Athens County, improvements to the Buckeye Hiking Trail in Perry County and the Moonville Rail Trail in Vinton County, Southeast Ohio is increasingly gaining national attention as a destination for trail enthusiasts. It’s also making its mark as a prime spot for local entrepreneurs, eager to grow the outdoor economy. Mark and Emma Brunton, of Burr Oak Getaways in Morgan County, are two such entrepreneurs.

Mark, who grew up in Perry County, said after graduating college he didn’t see much opportunity in the region. “I’ve seen the ups and downs of extractive industries here, the heyday of coal and the hardships that come with layoffs. I wanted to see what was beyond this region and became a visual journalist. I bounced all around the country, traveling to all these different, interesting places and saw a little bit of Southeast Ohio in each one of them, and was always reminded of home. After a while I thought, ‘Wow– this area is actually really special. It would be nice to get back there,’” he said.


The guest book from one of the Burr Oak Getaways rentals, the “Ravine Trail Cabin,” shows an entry from a family who has visited multiple times.

In 2013 he moved back to the area with his wife Emma, who is originally from Northern California. They both found employment at Ohio University, with Mark working in the Patton College of Education. He says there he met people in the Outdoor Recreation program whose priorities for environmental sustainability and outdoor recreation aligned with the couples’. In 2014 the Bruntons started Burr Oak Getaways as, “a kind of experiment to co-host local vacation rentals and offer marketing services to some of our neighbors,” Mark said.

Fast forward seven years and the business is now a full-time endeavor. The Bruntons have expanded their offerings to non-motorized boat rentals and Mark, a Coast Guard licensed captain, offers guided fishing and lake tours on his pontoon boat at Burr Oak Lake.



Mark and Emma stand outside “The Float Shack,” their business at Dock 2 at Burr Oak Lake with ACEnet’s Chris & Bailey.

In 2021 they purchased a neglected piece of property down the road from their rentals at Dock 2 on Burr Oak. They spent the spring and summer cleaning it up and put a new structure on the property, calling it “The Float Shack,” they offer campers, boaters and hikers a place to find snacks, ice cream, fishing bait & tackle, and camping supplies; it also serves as the location to rent their boats.

The couple also offers internships to local high school students, which according to Emma is a really important part of their business model. “For many of these local kids, this is their first job. It’s really great work experience and we’re excited to be able to provide new opportunities in the area,” she said.



Merchandise for Burr Oak Getaways, along with other necessities are for sale at “The Float Shack.”

They have eyes on continuing to grow their operations and offerings in 2022, specifically around the Float Shack. The Bruntons, along with fourteen other local entrepreneurs, are currently participating in The Trail Town Business Challenge (TTBC), a five-part workshop series focused on business planning training. The challenge culminates with a pitch contest and the opportunity to win funding for the most developed business plan. Funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through a Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant and led by Rural Action and the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet), the participants have just completed their last workshop and are in the process of meeting with business coaches for 1-on-1 assistance and practicing their business pitch.


Mark and Emma give Bailey a tour of the “Ravine Trail Cabin.”

According to Chris Quolke, ACEnet’s Small Business Support Specialist and Trainer, “The TTBC entrepreneurs have been an impressive group because of their drive to achieve the vision they have for their business. I find it inspiring how their ideas enhance the communities where these businesses are being planned and developed. It’s a very exciting time to be in Southeast Ohio because of all of the new experiences being made available through just this group alone.”




Mark and Emma stand outside one of their rentals.

The Bruntons are equally excited to see the growth and opportunities for entrepreneurs around the trails. “This area is really unique, a hidden gem of Ohio. It’s compelling to see all these small towns and groups coming together for one cause– there’s power in that. I just feel we’re on the right path, whether we win the final award or not, I’m just excited to wake up every morning and work on some of the things we’ve been talking about today,” Mark said.





For more information about the TTBC and Burr Oak Getaways:


Community Update and photos by ACEnet Multimedia Designer, Delia Palmisano