Resort town reverses itself, won't take bikeway grant

GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ohio (AP) - After working three years to land a $229,030 bike path grant, this lakeside community has rejected the money.

Residents living near the proposed route said they don't want the bikeway, in a twist to the "not in my back yard" opposition often mounted against commercial or industrial projects.

"I think their concern was by putting the path in it (the neighborhood), it would increase the bike traffic," village council President Pro Tem Don Woodward said Wednesday.

The competition for the money was tough: this year 118 communities applied for part of the $11 million available. Fifty communities got Ohio Department of Transportation grants available through federal aid.

Geneva-on-the-Lake, which calls itself Ohio's oldest summer resort, wanted to build the bike path, in part, to increase tourism, according to its application.

Woodward had supported the idea but changed his mind in the face of opposition from residents of the neighborhood selected as the safest route in this community of about 1,700.

The alternative route, along a curving highway, was too expensive, he said. Changing the route would have increased the local matching share from $40,000 to as much as $70,000, Woodward said.

Bike path opponents didn't return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The bikeway would have created a one-mile corridor for cyclists heading west toward the village's park alongside Lake Erie and Geneva State Park, which the state hopes to expand with a lodge.

Geneva-on-the-Lake, located between Cleveland and Erie, Pa., got its first public attraction in 1869 with the development of a picnic ground overlooking the lake. Soon, a carousel, dance hall, boardwalk and summer cottages were added.

The summer resort thrived with the arrival of the automobile era, and entertainers including Jimmy Dorsey, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Lawrence Welk and Cab Calloway appeared on the stage.

Woodward said he didn't think the grant rejection would hurt the village's attempt to restore its position as a travel destination. He held out hope that a bikeway might be in the village's future.

"Once people recognize the benefit to the community, I think you'll see one," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)