Middleton Twp. trustees: No plan to close Echo Dell

NEGLEY – Middleton Township Trustees want to put a stop to “misinformation” about the Echo Dell Road improvement project.

During the trustee meeting last week, Trustee Eldena Gearhart read from a press release stating they have “NO plan” to close the road, a decision that was reached “many months ago.”

“We are investing money up there. We have planned on investing into it,” she added.

Other misinformation being passed around town is that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is planning to widen the road, according to the press release.

“ODNR never indicated to this board they were going to widen the road,” Gearhart read from the release.

Trustees met with ODNR representative and township resident Karl Mattern last month and Mattern said the state department would install any culvert pipes or catch basins needed if funding is awarded through the ODNR for one layer of chip and seal there.

The board contacted the ODNR last year seeking available funding to have the road chip and sealed and they are waiting for final confirmation from the department’s chief.

The road has already been submitted to the county engineer’s office for inclusion in the chip and seal program. If the ODNR funding is not made available it will be removed, they said.

Gearhart said, while reading from the press release, the township has made a commitment to investing funds for the second layer of chip and seal, the limestone material needed for the installation of culvert pipes and additional materials needed for maintaining the road.

“We will continue to look for available funding to continue additional improvements for Echo Dell Road,” she read from the release.

Trustees began seeking public funding last year for necessary improvements to the road that serves as an access into Beaver Creek State Park. They had said then that without assistance the road would potentially need to be closed because it was becoming too dangerous for motorists.

The township owns the narrow, steep and winding half-mile of road that is bordered by a steep hillside on one side and a deep ravine on the other. Drainage problems have also caused the road to erode over time.

Since the trustees have called attention to the road’s poor condition the ODNR, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Columbiana County Engineer’s Office have offered to help.

The department of transportation already donated asphalt grindings that were put on the road by the township’s road crew last year.

Resident Marlene Shaffer said Gearhart had told her the township didn’t have the money available for the road to be chip and sealed, although Gearhart said she never made that statement.

Gearhart had previously said the township would not be able to pay for both layers of chip and seal, and Trustee Nancy Michaels explained that without the ODNR’s help for the one layer it wouldn’t be worthwhile to put down a single layer since the road needs at least two coats of the road material.

Shaffer seemed to be under the impression the board was not going to move forward with improving the road and walked out of the meeting upset after Gearhart said she had not said what Shaffer believed she had.

Before Shaffer left, Fiscal Officer Bob Chapman read aloud from the March 18 meeting minutes in which Mattern had said the ODNR “would probably” end up hauling away material removed from the area if the road was widened.

Marlene’s husband Jack had previously suggested the township widen the road and install drains to alleviate the problems there.

While the matter was briefly discussed at the March 18 meeting, it was never determined the road would actually be widened.

Trustees had looked into community development block grant funding to pay for that, but have since learned it isn’t available.

Gearhart said the county engineer’s office will be surveying the road to determine the location of the right of way.

“It’s just important for people to realize that ODNR is not backing off and the township is not backing off,” Gearhart said.

On a related matter, trustees approved purchasing three signs prohibiting oversize vehicles or rigs from traveling on Echo Dell Road into the park.

They also approved offering Ray Barrow the seasonal employee position.