Planning proceeds for Girard canoe and kayak launch

GIRARD – Before the end of summer, Girard will have a canoe and kayak launch area off the Mahoning River for the public to use for recreational activities and traveling on the water, if all proceeds as planned.

In preparation for the site located off River and Front streets under the Girard-McDonald viaduct, several studies are being conducted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, focusing on various wildlife species, such as mussels, brown bats and salamanders, native to the area.

Mayor James Melfi said last week the city has been approved to get $67,000 in grant monies from ODNR for the $73,000 launch project, but the studies are required to be done before releasing the funds.

The total project cost will have the city paying $6,145 and the $67,000 ODNR grant covering the remainder. Project costs include $55,175 for construction and $17,825 for engineering fees.

“We are complying and understand the government has rules and regulations we have to follow. Whenever there is wetland areas involved, these studies are needed. The studies will make sure there will be no harm to mussels, salamanders or whatever wildlife is there,” Melfi said.

Plans are to have the canoe launch at the end of Front Street.

Melfi said the project includes constructing a new ramp, dock, sidewalk, site lighting and gravel parking lot.

Melfi said a parking area will be created for motorists to park vehicles and then walk a short distance south to the riverbank. Motorists will travel along Front Street, which will be extended. There will be a gravel pathway to take a boat or canoe to the ramp, which will go directly into the water.

He said city administration approved the project and needed studies and CT Consultants of Youngstown, engineers on the project who applied for the grant on the city’s behalf, were informed, of reducing some scopes of the project, such as the parking lot size.

“If additional grant monies allow in the future, we will try to expand the parking area,” Melfi said.

“We can’t take general fund monies for the studies but are using grant monies we have seen to cover the costs for the wetland study and other studies,” he said.

Other studies completed are:

l Wetland delineation study for $2,000;

l Ohio Environmental Protection Agen-cy water quality survey for $2,800; and

l Wildlife studies are estimated at $5,800.

Eric Heis, communications director with ODNR, said the studies are quite common whenever a project is taking place in a wetland area.

“The studies make sure the wildlife is protected. Many of the species checked are important to the local region,” Heis said.

Heis said Phil Hillman, a regional fish management supervisor with the Department of Wildlife, works with communities to ensure wildlife is protected.

Melfi said a letter he received in March from ODNR explains a review of the area indicates no record of unique ecological site state wildlife area, or state nature preserve in the area.

The river has been a popular attraction for those who enjoy canoeing and kayaking often traveling from Girard to Youngstown.

The Friends of the Mahoning River are preparing for the organization’s fifth annual Riverfest, set for noon to 5 p.m. June 4 at the B&O Station Banquet Hall, 530 Mahoning Ave. Riverfest is held to educate the public about the river and promote its recreational use.

Don Rex, a member of the Friends of the Mahoning River, said the event will include a paddle from Niles to Girard led by the Trumbull Canoe Trails group as part of the local Riverfest events beginning off east First Street in Niles, under the Route 46 bridge.

Rex said the trip will take people to Marshall Road before the dam area.

In past years, people have launched from the site where the launch area is being planned and then traveled from Girard to Youngstown.

”It’s a different location people will paddle to. Because of the environmental delays it is not ready for this event. The Trumbull Canoe Trails will lead the trip,” Rex said.

Rex said the proposed launch area will ”put Girard on the map.”

“The only other launch area nearby is Canoe City in Leavittsburg. This will be a great addition for Girard,” he said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com