Garrettsville – On May 2, 1993, Garrettsville’s newest attraction — the Main Street boardwalk — was dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Later described as “a wooden walkway to nowhere in particular except delight” in Ohio Magazine, the boardwalk held a promise of downtown revitalization and increased tourism for this historic village.
Twenty years later, the 500-foot elevated walkway, which stretches along Silver Creek and the rear of downtown’s south-side commercial block, may be taken for granted by some. But for those who argued for it, worked toward it, and invested in it, the boardwalk stands as a symbol of this community’s vision, vitality, coordination, dedication and sense of hometown pride.
Described by detractors as unnecessary and expensive, the ambitious project began as a dream conceived by the late Sal Mascio, who established Mario Angelo Pizza at 8116 Main Street (now Italian Garden). When he built the pizza shop, he included rear windows and a dining deck overlooking the creek. Unfortunately, the view was dismal, with overgrown, littered creek banks and dingy, boarded-up commercial buildings with insulation drooping from their rotting facades.
But Sal saw potential for this little waterfront, and he shared his dream for a lighted walkway that would connect the backs of downtown shops, increase pedestrian traffic and parking for downtown commerce, and allow access for business owners to beautify their buildings. But before his dream could materialize, Sal passed away. His widow, Margaret, carried his dream forward as a tribute to her late husband. Fellow business and property owners; committees; local, county and state government; grant agencies and private donors joined forces and pooled resources to make the million-dollar boardwalk a reality within five years of Sal’s initiation.
“I’ve always felt the boardwalk straightened up the downtown area,” says Garrettsville Mayor Rick Patrick. “It used to look like a horrendous mess along the creek. It was a do-or-die situation with our downtown back then. The boardwalk became a point of pride, helping people to see the falls and appreciate the natural beauty of our town.”
In fact, Patrick recently established a new beautification committee charged with enhancing the boardwalk and village entrances. He wants to build upon the revitalization process put in motion by the boardwalk, and showcase this historic community’s assets in such a way that it continues to attract new business, tourism and residents.
In 1993, the local business community came together as a unified force and made something good happen for the benefit of the entire village. As one business leader instrumental in the boardwalk project commented, “That doesn’t happen very often. Maybe once in a lifetime.”
Garrettsville’s boardwalk has become a natural artery through town which attracts walkers, waterfall gazers, photographers and Summerfest attenders, to say the least. The “walkway to nowhere in particular” encourages people to slow down, to linger longer, and to appreciate their village in ways only imagined 20 years ago.