CONNEAUT – Plans have been made to spend $45,000 to help businesses affected by the scheduled periodic closures of Conneaut Creek.
Conneaut Port Authority chairman George Peterson spoke to the council during a working session last week about how Norfolk Southern funds could be used to offset the commercial impacts of the planned rail bridge replacement on Conneault Creek.
The bridge was built in 1902 and 1903, with extensive component replacement and reinforcement work carried out on the bridge since then, Norfolk Southern director of strategic communications Thomas Crosson said in an email. The bridge is 1,320 feet long, he said.
Work on the bridge has been structured to minimize disruption to residents, Crosson said.
“The vast majority of the work will take place at the bridge site,” Crosson said in the email. “Trucks will have to take specific routes through the city depending on what they are carrying.”
Due to bridge work, Conneaut Creek will be periodically closed to river traffic. The closures are expected to impact Conneaut Creek Float and Fly, a company that offers kayak and canoe tours along Conneaut Creek.
The main route along the creek in the summer runs from the Conneaut Creek Float and Fly location on Welton Road to an access point on Woodworth Road, Conneaut City Manager Jim Hockaday said.
Hockaday said he and Peterson discussed what could be done and the cost of these changes.
Peterson said upgrades were planned for a ramp leased by the Fish and Game Club, in addition to working on the parking lot and placing a shed there. The improvements would allow for the creation of a road between Woodworth Road and the port’s public wharf.
“All this we will do for free for [Conneaut Creek Float and Fly] so that they can maintain viability for the two years they will be discontinued,” Peterson said.
He said the electricity will have to be brought to the shed and the parking lot will be improved, he said. Work will also be done on the Woodworth Road ramp.
Another shed will be installed on the public wharf, near the old boat launch, said Mr. Peterson.
“We are installing a floating dock there, as well as a kayak launch,” he said.
NS provided the city with $45,000 to offset the economic impact of replacing the bridge, which will be used for the improvements. The funds were placed in a special fund, Hockaday said.
Peterson said the Port Authority plans to start work as soon as possible.
“For the most part, even into the early spring and summer this year, the river will not be closed to traffic,” Hockaday said. “It’s once they start working above the river, where there’s a risk of things falling into the river and hitting someone traveling in a kayak below, that’s when- where it’s going to be closed.”
Bridge replacement work is not permitted to impact fishing seasons, Hockaday said. The construction window coincides with when Conneaut Creek’s Float and Fly uses that section of the river, he said.
“When it’s closed over the summer for this working season, that will have an impact,” he said. “Our goal is to mitigate that.”