Written by Larry Limpf
October 15, 2013
“We’re damn happy.”
That was how Mayor Lowell Krumnow, who died Oct. 6, described his feelings when officials in the Village of Elmore learned the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure would be stopping for two days in the Ottawa County village in 2009.
“The last time they were here in 2005 they were here for one day. I guess they liked it so much they decided to return. So we’re pleased,” Krumnow said at the time.
Riders entered the village on a recently completed stretch of the Northcoast Inland Bike Trail that was dedicated less than a year prior to GOBA’s return visit to the village.
“You build it and they will come,” Krumnow said. “For a town of 1,500 or so people to be having 2,500 to 3,000 people visiting is pretty exciting.”
A tireless promoter of the village, Krumnow’s years as mayor, councilmember and founding member of the Elmore Historical Society were marked by what could be described as a bottomless fountain of ideas for attracting people to Elmore.
Rick Claar, a councilman, said Krumnow was only 18-years-old when he approached village council with a proposal for maintaining a train depot building along abandoned rail property.
“He went to council and said he wanted to get something together to preserve the depot. ‘I want to buy half, if you’ll buy half.’ That is how he started the historical society,” Claar said. “The cool part is, because of that, the town could expand its corporation limits. So now we’re serving people out there with electricity, which helped the turnpike exit tie in. And that helped us get a section of the Northcoast Inland Trail. He actually preserved that whole area for the village as an 18-year-old kid.”
The Portage River Festival, which has been celebrated for more than 30 years, was started as a fundraiser for the historical society.
Claar said at times he was almost embarrassed by Krumnow’s unabashed enthusiasm for touting the village at meetings of organizations such as the Northwest Ohio Mayors and Managers Association or Discover Ottawa County, where the mayor, armed with bags full of items bearing the village name, would hand them out or put them along place settings at luncheons or dinners.
After the publication of the book, Haunted Ohio, the village became a magnet for those curious about the legend of the headless motorcyclist and Claar and Krumnow weren’t shy about giving directions to the road where the veteran of World War 1 supposedly met his gruesome fate.
Claar said the village police chief, George Hayes, came in with a note one day from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department asking Claar and Mayor Krumnow to refrain from directing people to the site as the department was getting complaints about the traffic.
“Every Grub n Suds festival has a depiction of the headless motorcyclist,” Claar said, adding Krumnow in his final days seemed to be able to recall the sheriff’s note with amusement during a visit by Claar.
The hosting by the village last year of the Moving Wall, a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., began with a question Krumnow posed to Ron Distel, then the adjutant of American Legion Post 279: “Why hasn’t the Moving Wall ever come to the Elmore area?”
The wall drew an estimated 6,500 visitors – some from as far as New York and North Carolina.
In the spring of 2011, Krumnow organized what he called a green energy summit to offer the public, business community and elected officials an opportunity to learn about the many products and services that conserve energy and have less of an impact on the environment.
In 2006, the village erected a meteorological tower along Dischinger Road as part of a study to determine if the village-owned site was viable for a wind turbine. A year’s worth of wind data indicated the site could support a turbine but the construction costs of the project were considered to be too high without outside financing.
And as the impact of big box stores was felt on Main Street in area villages, Elmore, in 2005, received a $400,000 Community Development Grant through the then Ohio Department of Development.
After factoring in administrative costs, village council voted to give half to private businesses for repaving parking lots, replacing windows and doors, painting and adding awnings and other improvements.
The village used funds to add period lighting along Maple Street, purchase period street sign poles, signage and benches for the downtown business district. A new message board was placed near the fire station and a kiosk was also constructed along the Inland Trail for visitors to view maps and announcements of upcoming events in the village.
Krumnow called it a “win-win situation for the business community and our local government.”
Claar said a proposed Joint Economic Development District with Harris and Woodville townships – if it ever comes to fruition – could be considered Krumnow’s “crowning achievement” because he was always looking for ways to bolster the village’s tax base.
Krumnow began serving on village council in 1981 and was council president when appointed mayor in 1994.
In the 2011 mayoral election, he defeated his older brother, James, a councilmember.
The contest drew nationwide attention from newspapers, television stations and websites.
Funeral services for Krumnow, 56, were held Friday.