Proposed comfort station

Pictured is a rendering of the proposed comfort station that is part of the Main Street Beach revitalization project.

It looks like the Main Street Beach Revitalization Project is motoring forward, as council is having legislation prepared to fund its portion of the project – the proposed roadwork funding, totaling $492,000. This phase of the project would complete paving of Main Street, from Huron Street to the beach, and improve accessibility with handicap parking. In attendance at Monday’s Streets Buildings & Grounds Committee were Stella Dilik, chief development officer, and Andy McDowell, vice president, Western Field Operations, both of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy (WRLC), who explained the next phases of the $1.87 million project.

                Mayor Jim Forthofer said last December, the Parks Board and WRLC came to council and painted a picture of what the project was going to look like. He said at that time, he requested $66,000 for the sewer line to the future site of the new comfort station. He said the museum was taken down, and WRLC is in the final stages of closing on the Linda and Bill Stuchal property, the last home on the right, which will make way for the comfort station.

                McDowell went over the project, starting in 2007. He said the Wakefield MetroPark was completed in 2011, followed by the Inland Seas Maritime Museum acquisition in 2013, then the Vermilion Beach extension in 2018. He said the WRLC is slated to close on the Stuchal property in the next two weeks. The house will be demolished in the middle of December, then the bathroom project, followed by the parking lot.

                McDowell said he was in front of council in December 2020 with a conceptual plan, which has changed since then, “But the tone and feel of it is similar. A conceptual plan is just that…that has developed into a better master plan, which is well more refined, and has much more community input.” He said the original master plan included a pavilion, “But the feel we got from everyone in town that once it (museum) was down, the view was too great. Let’s keep it as is for now.”

                Following the Stuchal property acquisition, McDowell said the comfort station will next be on tap. He said the goal is “to be up and running by Memorial Day of next year, 2022.” He said before that is done, the sanitary improvements need to be made. McDowell said there is a lift station on the location, “It has to be totally redone in order to supply the needs for the planned restroom/comfort station.”

                The also needs to be some shoreline revetment done along the lakeshore by the site of the former museum needs to be done as well. He said there are shoreline erosion issues there, but the structures that are on the lake are in good shape. He said it is more of an issue of the shoreline meeting those structures on the lake and vegetation that needs to be done to look better and more appealing.

                The budget the WRLC originally shared with council had a price tag of $2.4 to $2.5 million, but Dilik said due to some “cost engineering,” the project is now at $1.87 million. She said some of the project’s funding came from the state capital budget, as well as a Natureworks grant and some other grant requests, including upcoming Coastal Management and other grants. She said there are also private funding sources through individuals, foundations, and corporations that already contributed.

                McDowell said the Vermilion Parks Board, board member Brad Scholtz, and members of the community helped with the planning of the comfort station, from its aesthetics to how many stalls, storage, concessions, etc. McDowell said there is currently “value engineering” going on, as the project is coming in a little over what was expected.  “It’s got to be shrunk to where the budget needs to be.” McDowell said in terms of what people consider to be more important, “I’d probably put restroom higher than parking.” McDowell said the community committee worked on the project all summer.

                The next phase, the roadwork portion, would widen Main Street from Huron Street to the beach. “It would be a slight widening…not as much as we anticipated.” It would also add parking and the ability to turn around at the beach, upgrade sanitary for the proposed comfort station and improve the existing pump house, increase handicap parking, and improve public access to the lakefront. McDowell added instead of the current two handicap parking spots, there would now be four with the potential for more. He said the will be permeable pavers on the low end of the street to help with water, as the area has been plagued by erosion and drainage issues. McDowell said the new plan also calls for a turnaround and drop-off lane. “We think it’s a very cost-effective, long-term solution. It will add to the visitation of the site. The current visitation is going to be ecstatic about having such a fine facility.” He said the restroom is most welcome, and it meets the needs of families. “Of course, it adds to your economic benefits by boosting tourism and giving you a really world-class lakefront piece.”

                McDowell said the WRLC is also taking into account trespass issues and inappropriate behavior with lighting, accessibility, lines of sight, and have gotten a lot of comments from community members who live near the property, so they are adding features (vegetation) to deal with that. He said they are working with Amy Bowman Moore of the Erie Metroparks to deal with some of that toward the Wakefield Metropark piece.

                Mayor Forthofer said with this next piece, the congestion that always occurs at the end of Main Street will be gone with the circular dropoff. He said council started to address Main Street in 2017, but economic issues and COVID happened, and it was abandoned. He said this project is basically coming back to that. McDowell said there is a pretty tight timeline to get the restroom completed by summer. Forthofer said the “big ticket” part of the project, over $1 million, has been taken care of through donations and grants from WRLC and Parks Board, but some of these come back to the city, such as the roadwork. Councilwoman Barb Brady said the money was not part of the city’s permissive use budget and asked if they have the money. Forthofer anticipated the question, and said, “Yes, we have the money, but it’s up to you as to how to use it.”

                Dilik said the quote of $492,000 is less than the $504,000 shared in December 2020 and said it has always been part of the whole plan. Service Director Tony Valerius said the price includes a 20 percent contingency, and the mayor added it’s another street taken care of. “It will be right in the center of one of our display projects,” he said. Councilman Steve Holovacs said the end project, the beach, is the point of the whole thing. “It’s something we’ve been looking at for probably the last ten years to get down to it. I think the restrooms themselves are something that will put us back on the map.”

                Councilman Steve Herron noted the four handicap spots on the plan and asked if there could be more.  McDowell said there is no reason there couldn’t be more. Herron said he believes there is going to be more people at the site. McDowell said he wouldn’t be surprised if there were a couple more at the end of Main Street. McDowell said the landscape architect the Parks Board is using was looking at the parking on the museum site. Holovacs said there are only so many spaces and asked about the minimum number. Scholtz answered two, and said the timing is important, as it folds into the rest of the project.

                The issue will be on the Dec. 6 council agenda for a first reading.

                At Tuesday’s Vermilion Parks Board meeting, Scholtz said the building for the restrooms may be coming in a lot higher due to material costs than originally anticipated, up to $100,000 more. Board members discussed either coming up with the cash or redrawing the building to fit within budget. Board members supported Scholtz’ efforts to work with the architect and get closer to the original number.