LINESVILLE — About 500,000 tourists visit the Spillway on Pymatuning Lake every year, but renovations scheduled for the area this summer threatened to cut into that number by temporarily closing the popular site.

Construction will happen this summer, but the Spillway will not close, said Ed Myslewicz, spokesperson for Department of General Services, the state agency handling the project.

“We understand this is a very popular area and the contractor will need to leave the park accessible,” he said.

The project was originally slated to close the area for the summer; however, local businesses and an editorial in The Meadville Tribune complained that closing the Spillway for a summer would have a harmful economic impact. A new plan was introduced to have construction start in spring, shut down during the summer and start back up again after Labor Day. The cost of halting construction during summer was too costly a proposition, so instead the Department of General Services responded by making the contractor work around tourists until Labor Day.

Myslewicz said a contract was awarded this week to general contractor Fred L. Burns of Shippenville for $2.5 million.

Burns is expected to start the project sometime in July, but the contract explicitly spells out the park must remain accessible to the general public until after Labor Day. The contractor has 300 days to complete the work.

“That would be great for us and especially the other businesses in town,” said Bob Semian, co-owner of the Spillway Inn. “I’m sure the state must understand how important it is to this area. If they keep it open it will greatly help us.”

Semian estimated 60 percent of his business is from tourism and at least 500,000 tourists stop to watch ducks walk on the massive number of carp that call the Spillway home.

“This really has a great impact on our business,” said Semian, who added that May was the busiest May dollar-wise that his restaurant has ever seen. “Memorial Day weekend, I looked out in our parking lot and I saw cars from California, I saw cars with Florida plates on them.”

David Ray, owner of Ray’s Golden Dawn located near the Spillway, said he is pleased construction didn’t start before Memorial Day and appears it will start after July 4.

“I think, obviously, the Spillway is a nice drawing point for the Pymatuning area,” he said. “Once they get the project done, it’s going to look really sharp out there.”

Depth sounding work was being done this week at the lake in preparation for the project, which is designed to make the Spillway more attractive aesthetically and environmentally.

Pete Houghton, manager of Pymatuning State Park, said that is one part of the preconstruction work. Depth sounding involves measuring the depth of the water to determine the amount of material that will be needed, he explained.

“We had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend,” he said, noting there were 127,000 visitors — an increase of 25,000 over that period in 2005. He hopes if the construction is delayed until July 5, he could match those numbers on the next major tourist holiday.

However, he admits Memorial Day is usually busier for the local attraction than the July holiday.

He noted not only were the campground and cabins full, the beach was busy as well. “Hopefully, it was a good sign that the season is gong to be busy.”

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is funding the project, which had been budgeted at $2.4 million. However, bids came in higher than that. “DCNR came up with the other $300,000,” Houghton said, noting the project will proceed.

The project includes installing flush toilet facilities, replacing above-ground wiring and poles with underground wiring and replacing the small snack shack with a larger visitor’s center and concession stand. Also included will be a new parking lot.

Jane Smith and Eric Reinagel can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at or

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