The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Neighborhoods

June 3, 2014

Once a nuisance, Conneaut’s sandbar has become a major tourist attraction

CONNEAUT —

This past holiday weekend, when so many people squeezed onto the Conneaut Harbor sandbar, it’s hard to imagine the spit of land was once considered a major headache.
Only a few years ago, the Conneaut Port Authority was looking for ways to remove the deposit that steadily grew as sand and silt washed over the harbor breakwater during storms. Today, city leaders embrace the sandbar as a major tourist attraction, and it is the focus of a wave of improvements.
The port authority now sees real value in the sandbar and is making a concerted effort to turn an old nuisance into an asset. The entrance “road” off Naylor Drive is routinely graded and the sand is regularly groomed. Last year, hundreds of tires that have washed ashore over the years were pulled from the sand and hauled away, a project financed through a government grant.
The first big physical improvement on the sandbar came in November 2011, when a 10-foot tall observation deck was built on the north end. The deck caters to bird-watchers and has enhanced the harbor’s national reputation as a premier location to spot a wide range of waterfowl.
More improvements were unveiled this year. Tables and charcoal grills have sprouted, some positioned to provide great views of public dock, boat traffic at the launching ramps and the many geese and ducks that paddle by.
“We’re trying to create more picnic opportunities on the sandbar,” said Joseph Raisian, port authority chairman.
Located inside the harbor, the sandbar’s beach offers very gentle surf that families with small children really appreciate. Windsurfers and other water-based athletes use the bar as a base of operations. And the port authority is still pursuing plans to install a small marina on the sandbar’s east side.

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