Boat club hammers out lease; city accepts

By Nicole Hennessy

Avon Lake

The Avon Lake Boat Club finalized its new lease with the city, extending the proposed 10-year term, which Avon Lake City Council approved months ago, to 15.

“The increase of the term of the lease from 10 to 15 yeas was at the request of the boat club,” Abe Lieberman, the city’s law director, explained to Avon Lake City Council members Feb. 27.

“They indicated that it would be easier for them to obtain grant funds to improve the property with a term limit of longer than 10 years.”

The city has leased the property the boat club occupies at Veterans Memorial Park for $1 annually since the 1940s, when WWII veterans started the club.

Over the term of the new lease, the club will be on the hook for a total of $100,000 for the first 10 years, then $12,000 per year for the next five years, during which time the city will make necessary repairs to the Heider Creek retaining wall.

The city (and county) has been looking at more effective uses of lakefront properties.

Currently, a section of beach near the club is being considered for seasonal kayak rentals through Lakewood’s 41 North Kayak Adventures.

But discussions regarding this project have been vague pending the boat club agreement.

Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka commented recently he doesn’t see the plan going through for this upcoming season.  

That the boat club will remain in its historic location, to many, is a nod to tradition and community.

During the negotiation process, high-dollar proposals, including a restaurant with a deck overlooking the lake, were pitched to the city by private developers. Ultimately, the boat club prevailed.

With the possible addition of 41 North to the western edge of Veterans Memorial Park, the area could see new life after all.

Furthering this possibility, county officials are also working to establish greater connectivity between, and access within, lakefront communities.

The Lorain County Board of Commissioners has been working with Lorain County lakefront communities utilizing funds awarded by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).

The organization awarded the county $86,000 to develop a Lorain County Lakefront Connectivity Plan for the cities of Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, Lorain and Vermilion for enhancing economic development along the 23 collective miles of lakefront and lake-adjacent properties in the cities.  

Councilman Dave Kos told boat club members gathered in council chambers, “I’m glad we can finally move past this part and that you guys can continue to operate in a new and better way.”

“I think this shows that tradition and heritage matter, and you guys matter. I’m glad you’re going to be sticking around.”

The boat club’s commodore, Ray Frank, said members are currently discussing ways in which the club and city can work together to obtain grants for things like an enhanced beachfront.

Frank added, though the lease negotiation process has been arduous, it’s brought a lot of attention to the club.

“I sense a renewed interest and level of energy among the members and that’s a good thing,” said Frank.

Mike Sweeney, a club member, addressing council, also commented on this renewed energy and the partnership that exists between the club and the city.

“The boat club doesn’t have a mascot. If it did, I suspect many people would think it would be a walleye or maybe a perch, but I tend to think it would be an elephant. They say an elephant never forgets, and I don’t know about that elephant, but I can tell you the members of the boat club … and a whole legion of people, sincerely believe that the Avon Lake Boat Club represented the essence of what makes Avon Lake a great place to live,” said Sweeney.

“That vast multitude of people; they will not forget. The truth is that the Avon Lake Boat Club is very, very important to a very, very large number of people, and I’m confident there will be opportunities in the future for that very large multitude of people to clearly demonstrate their gratitude.”

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