The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 3, 2013

Conneaut prepares second try to upgrade creek access

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Undaunted by recent rejection, a group of city officials are planning another attempt to help get lovers of Conneaut Creek closer to their favorite waterway.

Discussions are under way regarding a new application for state funding that would be used to create a parking lot on Center Road at the site of the long-closed Farnham Park. The gravel lot, big enough to accommodate perhaps a dozen vehicles, would be positioned to give fishermen, kayakers and others easier access to state-protected Conneaut Creek.

“The object is to get more access to our world-class creek,” said Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch.

An initial bid for state money failed when the $3.6 million in funding was bestowed on a facility in Cincinnati. At a Monday night meeting of City Council’s parks/recreation committee, members and guests brainstormed on a new and improved application for the newest funding round. Efforts are under way to draft an agreement acceptable to the city and the Conneaut Township Park board of commissioners, which owns Farnham Park.

The successful applicant would provide the money up front and then be reimbursed by the state. It’s believed the city would seek less than $200,000 to create the lot. City officials are working on a plan that would make the park board the funding source, in return for assurances the city would maintain and police the lot.

Council President Thomas Udell was afraid the city would not be up to the task. Municipal workers are hard-pressed to handle the chores they have now without taking on new duties, he said.

“We can’t maintain what we have,” Udell said.

The lot would be somewhat similar to a gravel lot on Center Road at the edge of the creek opposite the Conneaut Local Youth Organization sports complex.

Also attending the meeting was Bob Best, a member of the Conneaut Port Authority, Friends of Conneaut Creek and the Ashtabula County Metroparks board. Best said the Metroparks board is planning similar parking lots at two of its holdings in the Conneaut area: Route 7 (for use by hunters) and Blakeslee Road (near Conneaut Creek).

The city of Conneaut, meanwhile, is mulling a possible parking lot project adjacent to a section of now-closed Old Mill Road that could be used for creek access, officials have said. Conneaut Creek is a designated wild/scenic river and world-famous for its steelhead fishing.