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New sediment recycling facility paves way for 2.5-mile pedestrian path along Lake Erie in Lake County

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Posted at 9:01 AM, Jul 01, 2022

PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Right now, construction on a new sediment recycling facility is underway in Painesville Township and it's paving the way for a new pedestrian pathway, as well.

Be it boating, the birds, or biking, boasting of Lake Erie's beauty is easy for Northeast Ohioans, like John and Deb Thompson of Lake County.

"We enjoy it immensely," said John. "It adds to that zest in life for us!"

They live near Painesville Township Park, where they were out enjoying the lake view and breeze on a warm summer morning, and curious about the development happening just down the shoreline towards Fairport Harbor.

"We have not been able to see what's going on back there since that property was bought," he said.

The sediment recycling facility is being built on the property next to the park.

Fairport Harbor and the Grand River need to be dredged every other year. That is when sand and dirt are removed to allow safe passage of commercial ships.

Dredging here is a year overdue; putting millions of dollars in cargo at risk.

The dredged material used to be dumped out in the lake, but Ohio banned that starting two years ago to protect Lake Erie's water quality. So, Lake County had to build this facility.

"It helps the state really exemplify beneficial reuse for sediment," said Jason Ziss, with Kurtz Brothers.

Kurtz Brothers will operate the facility. They operate a similar site for the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. They said they're the only two sediment recycling facilities in the state.

In Painesville Township, Ziss said the dredger will park offshore and pump the dredged sediment up into three massive earthen channels.

"What this does is it drops the particulate and the sediment, and separates it by grain size," he explained.

The water is then cleaned in two more ponds before returning to the lake.

The process takes about six weeks he said before they can start to get at the material for recycling.

"All we're doing is taking sediment and separating out the different particulate matter and then reintroducing that back into the market as commodity aggregates," said Ziss.

He said they hope to eventually recycle about half of the dredged material they receive.

They say the goal is to have the facility and the dredging up and going by August.

County leaders said it was a bipartisan lift to secure the $11.3 million in funding from the Ohio EPA for the facility.

"We cannot have a strong economic development component in Northeast Ohio if we do not have strong, safe, navigable waters in this part of the state," said Ohio State Senator Jerry Cirino, (R) District 18.

Fairport Harbor supports 1,933 jobs, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and commodities handled support $371.2M in business revenue every year.

While the dredge facility was mission-critical for Lake County, the other big part of this story is an expansion of Lake Metroparks. The project is creating a public shoreline trail that'll stretch more than two miles and connect Fairport Harbor and Painesville Township.

"We're excited to get going," said Paul Palagyi, executive director of Lake Metroparks.

Palagyi said Kurtz Brothers donated the easement along the shoreline to the Metroparks. He says they hope to break ground on the first of four phases this fall.

"I have been looking around the Great Lakes trying to find another paved, ADA accessible trail that runs 2.5 miles along the Great Lakes and I haven’t found one," said Palagyi.

You will soon find it starting right back where we began at the pier at Painesville Township Park.

"We're looking forward to it," said Thompson.

Palagyi said they hope to have the first stretch of the new shoreline trail starting at the pier and going west, open by the end of next summer.

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