DeWine cuts ribbon for new Ashtabula County Welcome Center


CONNEAUT —Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Department of Development (DOD) Director Lydia Mihalik, and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks cut the ribbon on the newly re-imagined Ashtabula County I-90 westbound Welcome Center, unveiling a place that tells Ohio’s story of Lake Erie, Ashtabula County’s covered bridges, and so many other magnificent attractions.

The Ashtabula County Welcome Center, just inside Ohio’s northeastern border, features Ohio’s agritourism and fishing industries, Historic Ashtabula Harbor, Port Conneaut Marina, Holden Arboretum, Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge, North Coast WWII Museum, Ashtabula Arts Center, Geneva State Park, James A. Garfield National Historic site, Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum, Ashtabula County’s covered bridges, and the Lake Metroparks Farmpark. It’s part of DeWine’s vision to greatly improve the traveler experience for the thousands of visitors who stop at Ohio rest areas every day.

“Ohio is the heart of it all – whether you’re visiting a Lake Erie beach, fishing for walleye, or touring a lighthouse or covered bridge, we want travelers to find their next vacation inspiration when they stop at our Ashtabula Welcome Center,” said DeWine. “Outside the Ashtabula Welcome Center, families can stroll through the Ohio native plants and trees or the Storybook Trail, which features a Dolly Parton Imagination Library book.”

At the Ashtabula County Welcome Center, the Storybook Trail features “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. There are currently 14 Storybook Trails at Ohio rest areas statewide, with plans for an additional two by the end of the year.

“By reimagining our rest areas, we’re creating a better experience for everyone and inspiring future travel plans,” said Mihalik. “Our hope, ultimately, is that travelers, having caught a glimpse of what they can experience in Northeast Ohio, will be inspired to explore more, extend their stay, and hopefully one day return!”

Conneaut local artist Walter Gunter’s State Road Covered Bridge model is also on display, which won the Ashtabula Covered Bridge Festival contest last year.

Ohio’s rest area work also includes partnerships to empower Ohioans. The Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Department of Development worked with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) to provide the stunning signage throughout the Ashtabula Welcome Center. Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) provides entrepreneurs who are legally blind the chance to manage vending services. People of various abilities are offered opportunities in janitorial and groundskeeping work.

“The new rest area improvements and ongoing maintenance are a testament to our commitment to supporting the independence of people with disabilities,” Marchbanks said. “These types of partnerships and contracts embody our core values to ensure all Ohioans have the opportunities to thrive.”

The Ohio rest area project includes a plan to build 33 new rest areas and upgrade dozens more by the end of 2026.

In 2023, visitors to Ohio generated $56 billion in visitor spending plus indirect sales, which supported nearly 436,000 jobs.

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