By CARL E. FEATHER
When Rick Brewer looks at the west Ashtabula Harbor breakwall, he sees more than a long line of huge stone blocks stretching for 1.3 miles to the Ashtabula Lighthouse. He sees the foundation for what could become a local recreational resource and national tourist attraction.
Brewer has proposed building a walkway to the Ashtabula Lighthouse from Walnut Beach as a project that would use some of the anticipated Natural Resources Damages (NRD) money arising from the Ashtabula River remediation.
Brewer is coordinator of the Ashtabula River Partnership, however, he presents the breakwater walkway project as a citizen and it does not come with partnership endorsement.
A preliminary engineering report prepared by Smolen Engineering in Jefferson calls for a 12-foot-wide deck constructed of super plasticized concrete on top of the breakwater to create a level, smooth path to the lighthouse. The path would be used for bicycle, pedestrian and other non-motorized access to the lighthouse.
This walkway would do more than just connect people to a destination; the entire stretch would offer recreational opportunities - jogging, roller blading, bicycling across it's concrete surface; fishing from six handicapped-accessible platforms/emergency care areas with park benches; kite flying, sunset watching and wildlife observation it's entire length. The walkway would connect to a nature trail and provide elevated views of a shoreline marsh, a rare habitat along Lake Erie.
"If it could be done, it would give the public the opportunity to experience on that breakwall something they normally would not get," says Brewer. "I just think that anyone and everyone in the community and those who visit the community could utilize that."
Kevin Grippi, a Smolen Engineering employee and former administrator of the Western Reserve Greenway Trail, says the walkway would essentially become the final stretch of the WRGT, which now ends at West 52nd Street. However, an effort is under way to connect Walnut Beach to the WRGT using a series of short connectors through the city.
The WRGT is part of a rail-trail designed to connect Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
"It would be the most amazing terminus for any bike trail in America," says. Grippi. "I'm convinced it would be a tourist attraction of national significance."
There are precedents for this type of project on Great Lakes breakwaters. Alpena, Mich., has a 1,200-foot section of it's breakwater into Thunder Bay topped with a concrete pad. The terminus is a wider area with benches and fishing access.
Greg Sundin, planning and development director for the city, says the walkway was completed several years ago using grant money from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The walkway is part of a 14-mile non-motorized trail that encompasses city and bayfront parks. "This was an extension of that," says Sundin. "It allowed people to get closer to the water."
He says building the walkway has greatly increased handicapped access to the water; previously, only the first 100 feet of the walkway was paved for easy access. "By doing that extension, the full length of it was opened up so basically everybody can use it," says Sundin.
Grippi says it's ironic that while Ashtabula is situated on the lake, there's no public place where people can easily fish from within the city limits. The walkway would change that, plus give handicap access to Lake Erie from the parking lot at Walnut Beach.
Ashtabula City Manager Tony Cantagallo visited a similar breakwater walkway in the Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, region last winter and was impressed.
"Their breakwall is probably 12 to 14 feet wide and has a 10-inch pad on top," says Cantagallo, who walked it New Year's Eve. "It was just gorgeous. It was like a gigantic sidewalk that went to the end of the breakwall."
Cantagallo says the concept would be even better when applied to Ashtabula's situation because it would terminate at the Ashtabula Lighthouse, which recently transferred to the Ashtabula Lighthouse Restoration and Preservation Society.
Link to the past
Built in 1905 and moved to it's present location 11 years later, the Ashtabula Lighthouse has the distinction of being the last manned lighthouse on the Great Lakes - it had a keeper onsite until 1973.
The organization plans to use the steel lighthouse for education and eventually open it to public access. However, getting people to the water-locked structure will be a challenge, says Bob Frisbie, the group's historian.
Access to the lighthouse over the existing breakwall is extremely dangerous. The breakwater starts out as a fairly smooth, even surface, but soon turns into a "jumbled bunch of rocks from that point on," says Frisbie. "It's very unsafe to walk out there."
Without a pedestrian walkway, access to the lighthouse would have to be by boat. "It really is a cumbersome way to get people out to the lighthouse," Frisbie says.
The walkway would solve that issue.
"I think it's great," says Frisbie. "It's a good way to take the public out, a safe way. I think it would be a great asset."
Based upon the preliminary scope prepared by Smolen, the project has been pegged at $6 million with enhancements like a water line, parking lot, lights, signs and boardwalk connection adding another $2 million.
Sundin says Alpena's project cost about $800,000, but that was five years ago and a much shorter section.
Grippi says they wouldn't dare dream about a project of this magnitude if it were not for the NRD money.
Brewer says the fund will be created by parties who have acknowledge responsibility for polluting the river - potentially a dozen firms. They have been negotiating with NRD Trustees to determine an amount, however, no agreement has been reached. Brewer says if an agreement is not reached through negotiations, it could go to court. However, in most cases, legal action is not required.
Negotiations in the Fields Brook cleanup resulted in an $856,000 fund, which is being held by the trustees.
"In my guess (the Ashtabula River fund) is going to be more than that," Brewer says.
Grippi says the walkway project would get only 20 percent of it's cost from the NRD, enough to provide a match for state and federal grants.
The project will face stiff competition, however. Brewer says the NRD money is pegged for habitat restoration and improving fishing in the Ashtabula River. That's going to be difficult to apply in this case, however, because about 80 percent of the river from West 24th to the Harbor is lined with bulkheads.
"That's not conducive to good fish habitat," he says.
Brewer would like to see a project that also compensates the people of Ashtabula for recreational loss of the river during the decades of severe pollution.
"Habitat restoration is all well and good, but I argue that part of these funds should be spent on human use," says Grippi. Habitat was harmed ... but so were people."
Unfortunately, the NRD money does not have to be spent in Ashtabula; it could go into a land bank and leave the area. Grippi says it would be especially tragic for the City of Ashtabula to lose any benefit from it; the city didn't get tax income from the Ashtabula Township industrial polluters when they were operating, but it's residents had to suffer the impact of the effluent and damage to the river. He says it's time Ashtabula be compensated for the loss.
"The city needs a break and needs an improvement project done," he says.
The decision will made by trustees who are representatives of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Commission. Cantagallo says he has pitched the idea of using that money for lakefront improvements, but received a cool reception.
Brewer says it will be important to have a strong show of public support for the idea when public meetings are held on the NRD funds. Cantagallo is assembling a committee to explore and promote the concept. He says persons interested in getting involved should call his office.
"I think it is spectacular," says Cantagallo of the concept.
Star Beacon Print Edition: 7/2/2007
Plan would use breakwall as base for 1.3-mile path to Ashtabula Lighthouse
By CARL E. FEATHER
Nativity exhibit to open in Kirtland
Volunteers are still busy putting up more than 600 Nativity scenes for the nationally acclaimed exhibit at Historic Kirtland in preparation for the formal opening on Friday. A lighting celebration and musical program will begin 6 p.m. Friday. Nativity sets representing countries and cultures from around the world will fill the Visitors Center and the one-room schoolhouse located next to the center. The theme of the 11th annual exhibit is “Unto Us A Son Is Given.” Admission is free and open to the public. Historic Kirtland is located at 7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road, just off Route 306 south of I-90.
Odd Tales of Ashtabula County
Twins were pretty rare in Williamsfield Township, so when Correne Cutlip delivered twin girls on April 22, 1939, her husband, Bob, started calling neighbors and relatives with the good news and a plea for help: they would need twice as much of everything.
Guilty of treason!
She was a lonely child, precocious, some said; others said she was simply aloof. Two things for certain, she was beautiful — neighbors often remarked on her black curls — and odd, especially by the standards that existed in Conneaut in 1916.
Those 10 Calaway girls
In an era when many couples are happy to dote on just one offspring and most U.S. McMansions have at least 2.5 bathrooms, the story of the Calaway sisters is amazing.
The music got him 'All stirred up inside
Floyd Hewitt loved to listen to the radio, especially that cool jazzy music that got him “all stirred up inside.”
The romantic bachelor
The brass plate is partially obscured by the July grass that grows about the stone substrate.
Second of a two-part series on the Big Blow of November 1913
Launching an industry
Shortly after midnight on Sept. 26, 1941, German U- boat No. 203 fired four torpedoes into convoy HG-73 north of the Azores.
Ransom for an attorney’s little boy
Tony Muscarelli, 13, and Willie Madden, 12, were walking down Depot Street, Ashtabula, on the evening of March 20, 1909, when a 30-year-old man accosted them from across the street.
Kelsey’s Run rambles through the flatlands of Conneaut Township Park, carving graceful curves in the grassy area just north of Lake Road and slipping quietly under the two stone bridges in its final stretch toward Lake Erie.
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- Nativity exhibit to open in Kirtland