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Euclid's lakefront project to guide, inspire other communities dealing with erosion

Posted: 6:22 PM, Jun 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-12 19:57:16-04
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EUCLID, Ohio — Using the experience gained from their own lakefront project, Euclid city officials, along with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, are trying to help private lakefront property owners identify and ultimately remediate the continued erosion of the Lake Erie shoreline.

Last year, city officials broke ground on the $7 million lakefront trail and stabilization project, a unique arrangement between the city and private property owners. In exchange for public access and right-of-way to the shoreline, private property owners in the area would receive erosion control.

The lakefront trail project comes nearly five years after the completion of the Sims Park fishing pier and trails project was completed and a decade’s worth of planning. As part of the first phase of the lakefront trail project, the amount of public shoreline access will be doubled. The soon-to-be-complete trail will extend from the fishing pier to E. 238th St., eventually connecting with a publicly-accessible stairway will lead to the area. The second phase of the lakefront trail will extend from Sims Park to a proposed beach near E. 250th St.

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Despite being a lakefront community, only 5% of Euclid’s shoreline is publicly-accessible. The multi-phase project is part of an overall effort to bring the lake back as a centerpiece for future growth.

“Lake Erie is one of our greatest assets as a city,” said Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail. “As we try to redevelop our city we really want to focus on the lakefront, which is unique to Euclid. [The lakefront trail project] has a number of benefits. One of them is erosion control, which is so important today. It also restores the natural habitat but, primarily, it opens up access to the lakefront to the public.”

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The unique public-private underpinnings of the project have drawn attention from other communities both inside and outside Northeast Ohio.

“This is a game changer for lakefront properties. Euclid is suffering and enduring the same challenges that we in Willoughby, Eastlake and Willowick are enduring,” said Willoughby Mayor Bob Fiala. “We have high water levels… massive erosion, concerned property owners, and we own a significant park on the lakefront. We’re trying to find solutions to all those problems just like Euclid looked at the solutions some 10 years ago.”

Mayor Fiala said Willoughby, Willowick and Eastlake officials have banded together to begin exploring possible projects to give public access to more shoreline in each community. Those potential projects, he hopes, will also help remediate the continued erosion of those shorelines. For guidance, Mayor Fiala said he and others will be leaning on Euclid.

“I guess if you wanted to look at the bright side of overly high water levels is the fact that the high water levels are forcing communities to have these discussions now,” Mayor Fiala said. “We have to do it because of the damage that we as a city and residents are suffering.”

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Euclid’s project has been progressing right along despite an at times bitterly-cold winter and especially soggy spring and summer, construction officials said. The fishing pier at Sims Park will reopen later this week and the overall project should be completed by the fall. By that time, Mayor Holzheimer-Gail hopes to have secured additional funding to begin working on an extension of the lakefront trail.

“We want to make sure that not only the people that live along the lake can take advantage of being a lakefront community,” Mayor Holzheimer Gail said. “We want the whole community to take advantage of it being a lakefront community.”

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While not every private property owner will have the fortune of being within the project’s scope, the City of Euclid and Ohio Department of Natural Resources still want to help guide property owners through the erosion control process. On Tuesday night, officials from both the city and state, an engineering consultant as well as contractor of the lakefront trail project will be on hand to answer questions and present information. The informational session will be held at 6pm at Euclid City Hall.

Topics that will be covered include Lake Erie water levels, types of shoreline, causes and effects of erosion, erosion control solutions, temporary shore structure permits and available assistance for erosion mitigation.