CONNEAUT CROWNED – Development earns Lake ‘Community of the Year’ status

The Meadville Tribune
By Jean Shanley
Monday, May 18, 2015

CONNEAUT LAKE  ̶  In recognition of residents’ work on a multi-phase community development plan.  Conneaut Lake has been named the Heritage Community of the Year by the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance.

The award was presented last week at a luncheon at Carbondale where Bill Eldridge, chairman of the Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee and a member of Conneaut Lake Borough Council, accepted the award on behalf of the committee.

Terri Dennison, executive director of the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance, said Conneaut Lake is a shining example of how to move a major revitalization project forward.  The CLCDC, following recommendations of its Heritage Tourism Work Plan, which was developed as part of the Heritage Community process, has fulfilled two of the recommendations of the plan and continues to revitalize the community.

Dennison said the two recommendations are downtown revitalization and lake-oriented enhancements.

The CLCDC recognized the picturesque setting on Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake is attractive to visitors and residents but it could be enhanced by creating a more welcoming streetscape and providing better amenities at the lake access points.

She said that by working with the Conneaut Lake Borough Council, the CLCDC actively solicited local support and was able to hire an engineer to design a multi-phase $20 million plan including streetscape improvements and additions to Ice House Park and Fireman’s Beach.

She said since then, the CLCDC has leveraged private funding with public funds and, with nearly $3 million in hand, is close to realizing its funding goal for phase one of improvements, which are expected to cost nearly $6 million and may start this fall.

She added that recently a developer completed revitalization of a historic church and donated it to the borough for official meeting space.  Other major developers are looking at investing in the community and the CLCDC and Conneaut Lake Borough should be congratulated for having a vision, developing a plan, raising the finances and making the town a better place to live and visit, she said.

Dennison said there are 20 Heritage communities across the Route 6 Alliance.  She defined a Heritage community as a community that has come together to create a work plan to enhance the area by strengthening its assets.

She said Conneaut Lake is a main part of the Route 6 corridor and the CLCDC has done a wonderful job of implementing its plan.

Conneaut Lake first applied to be a Heritage Community in 2008 and worked with the Alliance to develop a plan.  As a result, the borough was named a Heritage Community in 2010.  At that time, she said, Conneaut Lake Borough Council designated the CLCDC as the agency to develop the plan and that’s why the CLCDC was chosen to accept the award.

She said it was remarkable what a small borough has been able to accomplish and credited a strong coalition of workers who continue to strive to meet their goal.

She added other Heritage Community leaders at the luncheon were impressed with the work the CLCDC has done in obtaining funding.

Dennison plans to be in Conneaut Lake within a couple of weeks to formally present an award to borough officials.

Conneaut Lake Borough Mayor Tim Kaider was excited and pleased to hear about the award, saying it was very rewarding to receive recognition for the hard work being done around Conneaut Lake and for Conneaut Lake.  

Kaider said the revitalization started with the renovation of Ice House Park done by Dr. Robert Moyers and his wife, Bobbie; and Bob Moss and his wife, Kathy.

Kaider said the CLCDC has worked on all the grant applications, terming it a “tremendous effort.”

He mentioned the work in the downtown area that is planned along with the improvements to Fireman’s Beach.

Not all of the funding has come from governments, he pointed out, praising, for example, Betsy and Jason Sperry for their work at transforming an old building into Vacavi Café.

Kaider said the improvement continues  ̶  mentioning the renovated church on the other end of town, which was donated to the borough by the Ron Anderson family; and the borough gardens, which have been improved through the efforts of the Conneaut Lake Garden Club, spearheaded by Sandy Eldridge, club president.

Referring to the new town hall, Kaider said it is a “breath of new life in the old church” and provides a nice space for borough meetings as well as for town residents to use.  “So many things are going on in Conneaut Lake,” he said, adding it was no wonder the town was considered for such a prestigious award.

“All the people working together, the federal and state grants, the support of the Crawford County commissioners  ̶  it has all been so wonderful,” Kaider said.

The Route 6 Alliance is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to promoting tourism along historic Route 6 in Pennsylvania and preserving special sites along the road.