Huron building paths to progress
Sep 24, 2013 at 1:20 PM
For almost 75 years, an old industrial site and its iconic grain elevator were the only things keeping people from accessing Huron’s impressive riverfront.
But that’s the lakefront city of yesteryear.
These days, Huron planners are immersed in a complete overhaul of the riverfront, having demolished the ConAgra facility in January 2012 to make way for parks, paths and other possible developments.
Last month, construction crews began working on a 600-foot public path extending along the former ConAgra property, off Cleveland Road East, north of River Road.
Workers are using crushed stone from the demolished ConAgra facility as building material for the path. The crews also used large boulders as riprap along the embankment, to prevent erosion.
The entire project, including an asphalt-covered path, should be done sometime next month. Other enhancements planned for next year include park benches, trees and grass.
“This represents a major milestone in providing public access and dedicated recreational space for pedestrians and cyclists,” Huron city manager Andy White said.
The ConAgra property became available for purchase in 2006, when company executives decided to leave Huron. The plant opened around 1937.
City leaders wanted to purchase the prime waterfront site, but with an annual budget of about $4 million, they simply didn’t have the money.
They pitched their plans to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and whatever they said worked — within months, the state provided Huron with grants totaling $8.3 million.
The money included:
• $3.2 million to acquire the 20 acres.
• $3.1 million to construct a 10 acre boat launch, which occupies about half the space.
• $2 million to demolish ConAgra and clean the surrounding area. About $146,000 of this was used to build the pathway. The grant also paid for shoreline excavation and placement of stone, asphalt and landscaping along the corridor.
The former ConAgra site is a key focal point in Huron’s revitalization.
In July 2012, city officials unveiled an aggressive plan to reshape the city by 2020. The $9 million undertaking aims to lure businesses while also persuading people to move to the city.
The plan also calls for linking several city landmarks, parks and neighborhoods, with an emphasis on highlighting waterfront features.
Meanwhile, Huron officials are still contemplating how to market the former ConAgra site. Some ideas tossed around include morphing the space into a commercial district, a business park, residential properties or a hybrid of the three.
But no matter what goes in there, the pathway will remain a public space.
“We want to preserve waterfront access and work with whoever wants to come in and do some development so we can secure some financial or economic benefits,” Huron councilman Brad Hartung said.
At a glance
Huron officials have spent the past year improving pedestrian pathways, including:
• $240,000 to create the Lake Shore Electric Railway Trail, a 1.25-mile path running parallel to U.S. 6. It connects Huron High School to Woodlands Intermediate School.
• $146,000 to build a 600-foot path along the Huron River at the former ConAgra site.
• $97,000 for various upgrades at the North Main Pier, including walkway improvements.