By SHELLEY TERRY



Staff Writer

sterry@starbeacon.com

ASHTABULA -- Summertime tourists soon will have a new sign to direct them to Walnut Beach.

City Council Monday night decided to hire a local master woodcarver, Gus Johnson, to make a four-foot-long, 20-and-a-half-inch, mahogany wood sign. The project will cost the city $720.

Ward 2 Councilman James Paulchel distributed photographs of some of Johnson's work and an artist's rendering of the proposed sign.

"It will have a rope twist around it and, at the bottom, a wave of water," he said. "There will be seagulls in two corners. It's a very nice look."

Johnson estimated the sign would take him 70 hours to complete.

Thomas Fence placed a $580 bid to erect the sign, including posts. That means the cost of the total project would be $1,300.

Council gave the project its blessing, with Ward 3 Councilwoman Betty Kist praising Johnson's work.

Paulchel said he will submit the plan to the historic Ashtabula Harbor Architectural Restoration and Review Board.

Ward 5 Councilman Chris McClure asked about the possibility of lighting the new sign, but Paulchel said the park closes at dark.

"How would you know if it's not lighted?" McClure said.

The large, old sign was destroyed two years ago when a motorist suffered a heart attack and drove into it. City Solicitor Tom Simon said he believes the man's insurance will pay for a portion of the signage.

With warm weather around the corner, the city's park board plans to get started on the following projects at Walnut Beach:

* Elimination of 10 acres of non-native tall weedy grass;

* Landscaping of those 10 acres with native plants; and

* Restoring the natural dunes with fencing.

The projects will be funded in part from an $862,500 natural resource damage settlement, which was established to compensate the community for past environmental damages.

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