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First phase of Conneaut Lake revitalization project nears its end

By Jean Shanley
Meadville Tribune

Nov 20, 2018

CONNEAUT LAKE — It took 13 years, thousands of hours of volunteer labor and about $3.5 million, but the first phase of a dream first discussed on Oct. 20, 2005, is nearly complete.

Records indicate that the first meeting of a group of people later to become known as the Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee met at the home of Kathy and Bob Moss at Conneaut Lake to discuss improving Conneaut Lake's streetscape.

The goal discussed at the meeting included having utility lines placed underground, new street lights and landscaping on Water Street, which is the main business district of the town.

Dr. Bob Moyers and his wife, Bobbie, and the Mosses led the campaign to have the work done. The four also were instrumental in developing Ice House Park, which is located at the entrance of the borough.

Bobbie Moyers recalled the first few meetings when the group was told by officials of utility companies that having underground utility lines was "nearly impossible" because of the cost and work involved. The committee known as the CLCDC still did not give up the dream — and even added improvements to Fireman's Beach to the initial vision of improving downtown Conneaut Lake.

Bill Eldridge later became chairman of the CLCDC. He spent hundreds of hours in the last few years applying for grants, which ultimately paid for 90 percent of the cost. The other 10 percent was paid through funds raised by the CLCDC and from borough funds.

Eldridge, a member of Conneaut Lake Borough Council and liaison for the CLCDC to council, told council at its most recent meeting that the utility lines on Water Street from First Street to Second Street in the borough are expected to be underground by this week. This is final step of the first phase of the revitalization of Water Street, which Eldridge said at Wednesday's meeting is 97 percent completed.

The work on Fireman's Beach is complete. It included new docks, a new parking area, a promenade connecting the beach to Ice House Park and other improvements to the beach.

Regarding the costs of the project, Eldridge said when all the work is complete and contracts are finished, he will present the final audit, which will show where all the funds came from for the multimillion dollar improvement.

The cost issue was addressed by Eldridge on Wednesday after a question from Bill Sandberg, a former council member and resident of the borough. Sandberg praised council and especially Eldridge for his many hours of work on the project and said using the local funds was money well spent.

"Council can be proud of what you spent," Sandberg said, noting, "whatever you spent, be proud of it."

Michael Kribbs, a council member, speaking to Eldridge, said, "As you know I was against this from the get go," adding, "it turned out looking much better than I visualized."

Dick Holabaugh, council president, said now Conneaut Lake is being used as a model for success since Eldridge and others have proven the project can be done "even though (some people) had doubts."

Plans in the next year are for a new playground to be placed at Fireman's Beach, Eldridge said.

Phase two of the Water Street revitalization will hopefully begin in 2020, Eldridge said, noting the CLCDC already has a $475,000 grant. Phase two will include similar updates as the first block of Water Street — just from Second to Fourth streets this time.

Grants continue to be pursued for phase two of the project.