BROWNHELM TWP. — Business owners are concerned that a planned road closure on Vermilion Road to repair erosion that threatens to collapse the road will hurt their bottom lines.
The repair work, which includes using massive pylons to stabilize the ground and shifting about 1,200 feet of roadway, is slated to begin June 9, which comes at the beginning of the busy summer season for Kreig’s Market and Ice Cream, the Aufdenkamp Family Farm and Mill Hollow Nursery, all of which are nearby.
The area slated for closure is on the curve of a narrow stretch of land near the Vermilion River Reservation where North Ridge Road briefly joins with Vermilion Road. The project has a price tag of nearly $702,000.
Richard Aufdenkamp, who owns his family’s farm, said closing the road won’t be good for business because many of those heading to his market, which is further east on North Ridge Road, come from people driving from the west. Often, he told the Lorain County commissioners Wednesday, those people simply stop by the farm as they drive past.
He said the June 9 date is about when strawberry season, which accounts for about 25 percent of his business, begins. Closing the road will mean fewer customers, he said.
“Rural farm markets are not usually seen as destinations, but rather places to stop along the way,” Brownhelm Township Trustee Orrin Leimbach said.
Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she understood the concern.
“Your impulse when you see a road closed sign is to turn around,” she said.
Deputy County Engineer Bob Klaiber said he too understands where business owners are coming from, but the road could collapse if steps aren’t taken to address the erosion. Not dealing with it could mean even worse problems later on, he said.
“It’s not just relocating the road. We have to build a pretty massive retaining wall,” Klaiber said.
Klaiber also said the work has to be done in the warmer months of the year with an eye toward not impacting school bus routes. That means a summer timeline, which coincides with when farmers do most of their business.
“Their busy season is our busy season,” Klaiber said.
Aufdenkamp and other business owners said they’re aware that work needs to be done, but want the county to do whatever it takes to keep the road open as long as possible.
Leimbach said he was concerned the detour would send drivers up to state Route 2 and most people wouldn’t take the time to backtrack to get to the affected businesses.
Klaiber said the detour won’t include Route 2 and will instead rely on nearby roads to bypass the work. He also said that he would work with the businesses to put up signs that indicate their businesses are still open.
Klaiber also said that he still needs to determine what the contractor’s actual work schedule will be and how long the road would have to remain closed.