Opinion: Teamwork helps Lake County realize waterfront opportunities

As someone who grew up along Lake County’s lakeshore, I’d often heard that Lake Erie was one of our greatest natural assets. I didn’t see much evidence of that, however, aside from the beach at Headlands State Park.

That all started to change in 2007 with the creation of the Lake County Port Authority, now the Lake Development Authority. The Authority was created by county commissioners for economic development purposes, utilizing the unique powers given to port authorities in the state. As such, the LDA is very involved in community planning and development, and has been instrumental in helping to finance dozens of large projects within the county.

A second focus of the LDA is to work with all of our lakefront communities in a concerted effort to help solve problems along our shoreline, as well as identify and pursue opportunities for recreation and development.

As always, major problems took precedence and Lake County had two: The first was a result of the state banning open lake dumping of dredge materials. Fairport Harbor is Lake County’s commercial port, handling almost 2 million tons of cargo every year. Due to this ban, the Army Corps of Engineers was unable to dredge the harbor in 2021, resulting in several large ships getting stuck at the mouth of the harbor. This was a major threat to commerce along the Grand River.

Working in partnership with Kurtz Brothers Inc., the LDA drove the planning, design, funding and construction of a dredge material recycling facility. This past summer, the North Park Sediment Recycling Facility began accepting dredged material from the harbor, ensuring continued commerce along the Grand River.

Another big problem, one that truly hit home to lakefront property owners, concerned the constant erosion taking place along the lake. The cost to prevent this erosion can be extremely high, far outside the means of most property owners.

Driven by several west-end mayors, the county established the Lakeshore Special Improvement District. The district extends along the entire Lake County coastline. Property owners can now absorb the cost of protecting their shoreline through a special assessment on their property taxes. They can spread the cost over 20 years without having to take out personal loans. The program is privately funded, with the county contributing an initial $300,000 into an escrow account to secure the $20 million in capital provided by private lenders; $5 million has already been allocated and over two dozen property owners have taken advantage of this opportunity. A second tranche of $5 million will soon be allocated, enabling more residents to take advantage of the program.


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