Girard group clears path for canoe launch
By Jeanne Starmack
The property is deep, narrow, flat and soggy, and up until May, it was overrun with weeds.
Beyond those weeds winds the Mahoning River — quiet, but muddy and running fast Thursday from recent rain.
Tom Smith and his son, Andrew, of Girard, along with Dale Smith of Chardon, were deciding whether they should try some kayaking.
Dale had brought his kayak down, and the plan was to let Andrew try out the new launch a group of volunteers had made on the river bank in May.
But no, Tom and Dale decided — the river was running way too high.
Such a beautiful spot though, said Sara Smith, who is Tom and Dale’s mother. She also lives in Girard.
With the group was Don Rex, who lives in the city as well. As they stood on a road beside the property that suddenly just ends, off Front Street under the Girard Viaduct, the Smiths and Rex talked about how special the unassuming, out-of-the-way spot is to them.
They are all part of a group called Friends of the Mahoning River, activists who want to see the river cleaned up and protected.
When they became aware that state grants are available to build a canoe launch on the river, they approached the city about partnering to get one.
“We went to the mayor, and he was extremely enthusiastic,” said Sara. “He said, ‘We have this land, and can’t use it because it’s in a flood plain.’”
In March, Friends of the Mahoning River and the city applied for a $69,000 grant to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft.
The Trumbull Canoe Trails Club supplied information on the proper elevation for the launch, which was designed by CT Consultants, Sara said.
The group and the city will learn whether they’re getting the grant in the fall.
The process is competitive, Rex added.
“We hope,” he said. “But the first time around is tough.”
Meanwhile, the group found some volunteers to start working at the site in May.
They cleared weeds, making a path wide enough to drive a car in close to the river bank.
They have someone willing to donate gravel to make it into a road, but the city has to grant a permit before they put the gravel down.
They’ve cleaned up the river bank and presto — there is a launch, even though it’s very primitive, Rex said.
It’s a start.