PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Just a few weeks after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was removing the Ashtabula River from its list of Areas of Concern, Ohio Sea Grant Extension Leader Frank Lichtkoppler is retiring.
Lichtkoppler, a Lake County Extension educator and program leader, ended his career Sept. 30, after 33 years with Ohio Sea Grant and two prior years as an extension agent.
He was a major player in the river cleanup project, which took more than 30 years of work and $75 million in funding from the state of Ohio, the federal government and private sector businesses, says Ohio Sea Grant Director Jeff Reutter.
He was the glue
“It wouldn’t have happened without this really long-term commitment by the Ashtabula River Partnership, and there were very few people who were with it the whole time,” Reutter says.
“Frank is one of those key people, often serving as the secretary for the group, the facilitator for the group, the person that organized it and called it together, always trying to deflect leadership, but often serving as the glue to hold it together and keep it moving.”
Coworkers say one of Lichtkoppler’s strengths is in gathering information — both scientific facts and public opinion — and presenting it to public officials, allowing them to make informed decisions based on both economic and environmental impact.
When 450 acres of wetlands and lagoons in Mentor, Ohio, were in danger of being lost to development in the 1990s, he put together information to show community leaders the land’s value as a nature preserve.
“It made a strong enough impression that city officials took the issue to the public to vote on, and the residents of the community voted to tax themselves to buy all that land and keep it as a wildlife preserve and public area within the city of Mentor,” Reutter said.
Today, the Mentor Lagoons wetlands are some of the last remaining riverine marshes along the shore of Lake Erie. The nature preserve has more than three miles of hiking and biking trails and contains an area of coastal dunes and beach that supports two species of plants on Ohio’s threatened list.
Ohio Sea Grant is planning a reception for Lichtkoppler from 3-6 p.m. Oct. 17 at Perry Community Center, 2800 Perry Park Road, Perry.
Ohio State University’s Ohio Sea Grant Program is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 33 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!