Staff Writer

ASHTABULA -- The idea of a concrete walkway, extending from Walnut Beach and across Lake Erie to the Ashtabula Lighthouse, is being talked about at Smolen Engineering Inc.

Kevin Grippi, client advisor at Smolen, proposes using Ohio Department of Natural Resources Funding to build a 1.4-mile, pedestrian concrete walkway on top of the far west break wall in the Ashtabula harbor. The walkway would connect to an existing nature trail and boardwalk at Walnut Beach.

"This enhancement would provide safe public access to Lake Erie and the Ashtabula Lighthouse, as well as raise the height of the breakwall," Grippi said. "The project is only in the talking stages ... we're trying to get the (city) park board interested."

Bob Frisbee, assistant director to the Ashtabula Marine Museum, believes a walkway would trigger a big boom in tourism.

"Many, many people stop (at the museum) in the summer and ask, 'How can I get to the lighthouse?'" he said. "It's a fantastic idea."

If the idea comes to fruition, the walkway will:

* Feature a two-line horizontal steel rope railing with large nautical bollard cement/steel posts;

* Provide 28 fishing platforms/emergency care zones 250-foot apart, alternating east to west;

* Boasts 24 sets of removable heavy-duty park benches; and

* Removable interpretative signs relating to the lighthouse, ships, Port of Ashtabula and Lake Erie, as well as an observation platform.

Grippi also recommends a removable emergency floating boat dock near the southeast side of the lighthouse for the U.S. Coast Guard, a ramp from the walkway to the parking lot and resurfacing the parking lot and roadway leading to the beach.

"This may be the only walkway of its kind," he said. "If the community is interested, I believe we should pursue it."

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