The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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January 13, 2013

Conneaut groups throw support behind Farnham revival

CONNEAUT — Conneaut’s Port Authority is the latest group to endorse a proposal to transform a long-closed park into a prime Conneaut Creek access point.

In a Dec. 20 letter to City Manager Tim Eggleston, the chairman of the port authority, Tom Belnap said the panel “fully supports” an idea to reopen Farnham Park to improve access to the creek. The good review comes on the heels of a letter from the Ashtabula County Commissioners last month also backing the park plan.

Belnap, in his letter, wrote the proposal would help the public reach the creek “for fishing, canoe and kayaking as well as other family activities that the accessibility to the park can provide.”

Last year, the city of Conneaut and Conneaut Township Park commissioners joined forces to see if the log-closed park — located along Center Road near the Monroe Township line — could be reborn as a venue for fishermen, kayakers and canoe enthusiasts. Farnham falls under the control of Township Park commissioners, who closed down the facility many years ago due to persistent vandalism.

In their letter to the Conneaut Grant Committee, which will seek funding for any park overhaul, commissioners said the initiative would dovetail nicely with the county’s Coastal Management plan. “We strongly support the efforts of the city of Conneaut grant committee in their efforts to obtain grant funding because we believe the additional access to (the creek) and Lake Erie will have a positive impact on tourism in Ashtabula County,” they wrote.

The commissioners’ endorsement will go a long way to help secure funding, Conneaut Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch, a member of the grant committee, said recently.

“It improves our chances quite a bit,” he said. “This could be a multi-million project.”

The proposal would reopen the now-closed road into the park and create upwards of a dozen gravel parking spots for visitors. In their letter, county commissioners said nature trails could be in the facility’s future.

The committee, a group of citizens with grant-writing expertise, next hopes to enlist the support of State Sen. Capri Cafaro and state representative-elect John Patterson, LaRusch said. The city and park board must also work out responsibilities regarding park maintenance and security, he said.

Grant applications are due by April, and Conneaut should know soon after if the Farnham project found favor among funding agencies, LaRusch said.

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