Program helps revitalize Lake Erie’s urban waterfronts

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COLUMBUS – All along the Lake Erie shoreline, communities are looking to Ohio’s Coastal Management Program for help in breathing new life into their waterfront neighborhoods.

The City of Port Clinton is the latest in a series of shoreline cities to adopt a master plan for revitalizing its urban waterfront, attracting people and businesses to an area that has long been in decline.

“We could not have done this without the Coastal Management Program,” said Mayor Tom Brown, following city council’s approval of the Port Clinton Waterfront Protection and Enhancement Plan.

“They have been our true partner, tying right into what we want to do in the city.”

In 1988, the Ohio General Assembly unanimously passed the Ohio Coastal Management Act and designated the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to administer the program.

Federal assistance.

In the mid-1990s, the Ohio Coastal Management Program became one of 34 state and territorial programs approved to receive funding under the federal Healthy Coast Act, passed in 1995.

Participation in the federal law has reaped numerous benefits for Lake Erie and its communities. The state receives approximately $2 million each year from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration to help upgrade coastal neighborhoods, as well as improve lake access; relieve nonpoint pollution in tributary streams; preserve coastal wetlands; and protect historic shipwrecks and underwater preserves.

Locally driven. Unlike most federally funded programs, the Ohio Coastal Management Program places great emphasis on local participation and less emphasis on national input. It is this local focus that has made the program popular among many of Ohio’s Lake Erie communities and organizations.

In July 2000, Port Clinton received a $25,000 Coastal Management grant to write a waterfront protection and enhancement plan. Its goal was to create an attractive coastline business and recreational district that would be a magnet for locals and for the thousands of visitors drawn to the area.

Focal point of the planned waterfront district will be the City Beach and Waterworks Park and trail, and will include dockage for visiting boaters, restored marshes and other features. It is expected to take about 20 years to complete.

In Lorain. In November, Lorain City Council took another step in that city’s waterfront development plans by approving the purchase of 408 acres on the east side of the city for a modern industrial and recreational park.

According to Chuck Undrisky, Lorain’s chief planner, the city has suffered high unemployment for 20 to 30 years. Local leaders believed a new, centrally located industrial park would lure businesses and much-needed jobs. But the downtown held few vacant areas suited for the task.

One notable exception was the 408-acre site owned by U.S. Steel LLC along the north bank of the Black River. The land has been largely vacant for many years. The eastern portion once housed the city’s municipal landfill.

In 1998, Lorain officials received a $40,000 Coastal Management grant to create The Upper Black River Master Plan for developing the site. The result was a blueprint for creating not only an industrial park, but also an 18-hole golf course, recreational trails and other amenities designed to bring people and businesses to the riverfront.

The plan was adopted in 1999 and is now part of the city’s total marketing package, Undrisky said.

Once Lorain owns the land, he expects the city to devote the next eight to 10 years to making the plan a reality.

Kelleys Island. Leaders in the popular resort community of Kelleys Island looked to the Coastal Management Program for planning help in the face of mounting development and tourism pressures.

A master plan developed 10 years ago to control building on the island was outdated, according to Leslie Korenko, former chairperson of the local planning commission.

“We were constantly making adjustments to the zoning code which contained lots of discrepancies and conflicts,” she said. “We were not prepared for what was happening to the island.”

Coastal Management came to the rescue in 1999 with a $33,500 grant and a list of proven urban planners. An updated master plan to overhaul the island’s zoning and building codes, protect its natural features and preserve its quiet charm as a resort community was unveiled this summer and is currently undergoing review by village officials.

West Creek. Preserving green space and controlling development were concerns of residents living in the West Creek watershed in Cuyahoga County, just south of Cleveland.

The nine-mile stream is an urban tributary of the Cuyahoga River, winding through the suburbs of Parma, Seven Hills, Independence and Brooklyn Heights.

Portions of the 14-square-mile watershed are being impacted by development from surrounding areas, according to Jim Kastelic, deputy director of the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission. In order to manage growth in a better way, local residents joined to form the West Creek Preservation Committee.

Using a $30,000 Coastal Management grant, Kastelic began working with the West Creek Preservation Committee two years ago to find ways of buffering the West Creek watershed from urbanization. Various non-profit groups in the area are now using plan projections to apply for state grants to acquire land for parks and trails in the valley.

City of Huron. In Huron, city manager Mike Tann hopes to marry a downtown revitalization project to a new waterfront walkway along the Huron River that links a series of city parks with the municipal boat basin, amphitheater and downtown business district.

The walkway plan was developed, in part, with a $35,000 Coastal Management grant obtained in 1998.

Tann said the walkway is a key element in city efforts to get a $400,000 downtown revitalization grant through the Ohio Department of Development. “It’s all tied to the linear parkway,” Tann noted.

For additional information on the Ohio Coastal Management Program, call 419-626-7980; Or toll free 1-888-OHIOCMP (644-6267). Or, visit the ODNR Web site at www.ohiodnr.com.

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Latest round awards $2 million

SANDUSKY, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program awarded more than $2 million in Great Lakes Coastal Restoration Grants to local governments in its latest round of funding.

The grants will fund nine projects to acquire and protect more than 240 acres, including a quarter-mile of Lake Erie shoreline, and protect and restore more than 4,000 feet of streams and riparian habitats in the Lake Erie watershed.

Funded projects are in Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga, Sandusky, Ottawa and Lucas counties.

Grants announced today were made possible by a one-time congressional appropriation. Nine Ohio projects, selected on a competitive basis, were approved to receive a total of $2,363,520.

The projects include:

* City of Hudson (Cuyahoga County), $149,000, Mud Brook Preserve sensitive wetland addition. Acquisition of more than 29 acres, including 16 acres of existing sensitive wetland, and more than 2,600 linear feet of Mud Brook and Powers Brook.

* City of Parma (Cuyahoga County), $206,000, West Creek land acquisition and preservation. Acquisition of two areas totaling 23 acres to link the present 180-acre West Creek Preserve.

* Geauga Park District (Geauga County), $190,000, Silver Creek Restoration Project.

* City of Eastlake (Lake County), $368,520, Ward Creek Riparian Corridor Acquisition and Preservation. Acquisition of 15.5 acres of wooded land along Ward Creek, a small tributary of the lower Chagrin River. A conservation easement will also be placed on an adjacent 31 acres of land bordering Ward Creek.

* Lake Metro Parks (Lake County), $125,920, Lower Grand River Floodplain Acquisition. Acquisition of 14.52 acres of Grand River floodplain wetland. The park district will preserve the site as a natural area and allow passive recreation use as a river access point.

* Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority (Lucas County), $65,530 (partial funding), Sediment Trend Analysis in the Maumee Bay Region.

* Danbury Township (Ottawa County), $154,150, Meadowbrook Acquisition Project. Acquisition of 30 acres partly located in the southern portion of Marblehead peninsula. Approximately half the area is made up of wetlands and located in a 100-year floodplain. This area is adjacent to 33.5 acres presently owned by Danbury Township.

* Put-In-Bay Township (Ottawa County), $888,000, Buckeye Point Land Acquisition. Acquisition of 9 acres on the eastern tip of South Bass Island known as Buckeye Point. Over one-fourth mile of shoreline will be preserved.

* Sandusky County Park District (Sandusky County), Muddy Creek Corridor Acquisition. Acquisition of approximately 120 acres of floodplain and riparian corridor on Muddy Creek.

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