Category Archives: Ashtabula County, Ohio

Ashtabula County Ohio history, attractions, lifestyle.




I’ve never been a fan of spring; too much mud, too much lawn work, longer days and the threat of a hot summer just around the corner.

But this year … this year, with what seemed like the longest winter, spring is a welcome sight.

As I type this, the sun is shining and the puddles from the overnight drenching are disappearing. We’ve had several false starts on the season this year, but I want to believe this is the real thing. No more snow, no more sub-freezing temperatures. Spring.

And with it, wildflowers. And birds. The bluebirds that frequented my backyard last year and kept me delighted and entertained at every meal returned on Saturday. Folks who watch birds are gearing up for the great migrations that will be heading across Lake Erie in the weeks ahead. In both Erie, Pa., and the Western Basin, there are major festivals dedicated to these migrations.

I’ve always wondered why Ashtabula County didn’t have an event like this. We have thousands of acres of protected natural areas, some 30 miles of shoreline and three Scenic Rivers.

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to move beyond wondering and develop a Scenic Rivers Pilgrimage. It is starting out small, one day, April 26, but we have big plans for this event.

The pilgrimage is a joint effort between The Lodge and Conference Center and Ashtabula County Convention and Tourism Bureau. It’s also getting a lot of PR support from Connect 534, which has adopted it as an event for April, and the Discovery Paths Lifelong Learning program at The Lodge.

Here’s the concept: Introduce folks to the diversity of habitat we have here in Ashtabula County by giving them a series of presentations over coffee and a light breakfast at The Lodge. In the afternoon, offer a variety of hikes at the places they’ve learned about, with an emphasis on the Scenic Rivers: Conneaut Creek, Ashtabula and Grand Rivers.

Because children may not be up to a two-hour hike, or some adults would rather deal with the art side of  nature, we’re concurrently offering a nature photography workshop for adults and an art project workshop for youngsters. These will be held at the Hubbard House annex from 1 to 4 p.m.

That evening, reconvene everyone for a program of music and documentary filmmaking. We’ll have a concert by Alex Bevan, composer of “Grand River Lullaby,” and then the film, “Call of the Scenic River.”

When we say “Scenic River,” it’s a moniker that refers to more than a pretty stream. It’s a state designation that is bestowed upon a stream only after it has gone through a rigorous documentation and review process. Two of our streams also have the “Wild and Scenic” designation.

Ashtabula County is the county in Ohio with three of these scenic rivers.

It’s time we give them the same respect that we offer our vineyards and wineries, covered bridges, lighthouses and museums. The rivers have played a very important role in our county’s history and development; a day to learn about them and the wildlife they support is long overdue.

The investment is pretty small, 13 hours and $35. You’ll get breakfast at The Lodge and a taco bar as part of the deal.  You’ll be entertained, wowed and challenged. And you won’t have to leave the county to do it.

I’d like to see the pilgrimage become a three day event (The Lodge management and ACCVB would love that, as well). The only it will grow into a significant shoulder-season tourism event is by having a strong first year that will prove to potential funding sources that this event has potential.

To register for the event, call The Lodge and Conference Center at 415-7100 or my office, 576-3768.

See you on the river.

Lifelong Learning

I’ve always had a passion for learning. My house sags under the weight of books and I own many more bookcases than chairs or tables. From electronics to history, from Christian history to Appalachian history, and from silent movies to the latest DSLRs that shoot video, I am constantly acquiring new information.

I wish I retained one-third of the knowledge I acquire, but the old brain has a hard time remembering my new street address, let alone the name of the W.Va. town that sounded interesting and I intended to put on my “to visit” list. But brain experts tell us the important thing is to keep excercising our gray matter, as well as our bodies, as we age.

I’ve always believed that there are many adults in Northeast Ohio who also enjoy learning, especially when there is no test at the end of the lecture. This fall, I have the opportunity to test that theory. As part of my job with the Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners, I am working with the Lodge and Conference Center at Geneva-on-the-Lake to to bring a Lifelong Learning program to not just adults of Ashtabula County, but also the many guests who visit the Lodge during the fall, winter and spring seasons.

The programs will be free for the guests; local learners pay just $10 each and will receive coffee, tea and a snack during the four-hours of instruction, discussion and occasional field trip.

The long-term goal is to create a miniature Chautauqua experience at the Lodge once a week. Eventually, we’d like those afternoon sessions to evolve into Road Scholar programs. But first we need to learn to crawl.

I have found many willing partners to be involved in this venture. John Smolen and Ashtabula County Bridge Engineer Leroy McNeilly, for example, will be presenters at our Oct. 9 program on covered bridges. I’ll present a Power Point program based upon a chapter from my new book, “The Covered Bridges of Ashtabula County.” The presentation will focus on the lost bridges — there were 37 of them that once stood in the county.

Later on in October, we’ll learn about tea and bourbon, both locally produced, and travel to a distillery where folks can sample rye whiskey and bourbon (shuttle provided). On Halloween day, we’ll see how real life can be much scarier than anything that happens on Halloween as we explore the great disasters of Ashtabula County. We’ll give special attention to the granddaddy of them all, the Ashtabula Train Disaster.

Registration is appreciated; call me at 576-3768 to register in advance so the chef knows how many cookies to bake! And speaking of dessert, The Lodge’s chef will, for our Oct. 2 program on Autumn in Ashtabula County, serve up one of his favorite autumn desserts.