Residents and officials ‘connect’ on lakefront development

 

Ideas – Residents of Lorain County lakefront communities gathered last week in Sheffield Lake to offer ideas to county and city officials working on plans to enhance opportunities for lakeshore usage and development. Here, residents look over maps as they brainstorm those ideas. (Press photo — Michele Murphy)

Sheffield Lake/Avon Lake

By Michele Murphy

A fishing pier. Linked bike paths, separated from roadways when possible. Bike stations. Opportunities for parasailing or kayaking on Lake Erie. Rezoning that would encourage creation of bed and breakfasts. A gas station somewhere along Lake Road that sells marine fuel for boating enthusiasts.

Those are just a few ideas from a long list brainstomed by some two dozen residents who attended a meeting last week with county and city officials working on the Lorain County Lakeshore Connectivity Plan.

Prior to the start of the session, Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy told The Press there has never been a lakefront plan. He said the effort, funded by an $85,000 planning grant from the Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency (NOACA), is meant to bring both officials and residents together to discuss ways to bring more people to Lorain County’s four lakeshore communities — Avon Lake, Sheffield Lake, Lorain and Vermilion.

He said the intention is to look at what can be done to enhance recreational opportunities, travel and tourism, improve transportation which includes walking and bike paths, and boost economic development efforts.

County commissioners teamed with Lorain County Metro Parks and the four lakeshore communities to secure the planning grant from NOACA. Last week’s meeting, held at Sheffield Lake’s Joyce Hanks Community Center, was the second opportunity residents had to voice their opinions.

The county hired Environmental Design Group to work with stakeholder groups to develop the plan. The company has provided similar support to local governments for projects including the Cleveland Lakefront Greenway near Burke Airport, Lakefront West along the West Shoreway at Cleveland’s Edgewater Park and Lakewood Park’s Solstice Steps.

Residents and a few local elected officials sat at tables where they were urged to discuss things they would like to see incorporated into the plan and challenges that may have to be overcome. Claudia Morrow, who owns Dock’s Tavern on Lake Road in Sheffield Lake and is also a resident, said she was at the meeting because she believes “we can utilize the lakefront more than we do.”

Small groups were given about 30 minutes to hash out lists of ideas and then reported them out to the full group. Before they left, they were asked to vote for or against eight broad areas on which the plan could focus.

Results of the voting showed support for increased public access to the lakefront itself and public lakefront destinations. Several supported development of restaurants and retail shops. In addition, the group seemed united against any effort that would negatively impact private property, something Commissioner Lundy had stressed at the beginning of the meeting. “We’re not looking at taking anyone’s land,” he said.

Lundy said the plan now would be drafted, incorporating the suggestions from the meeting as well as another public meeting held a week earlier. He said once the plan is drafted, two more community meetings will be held, probably in late summer, to again gather resident input. Once the plan is completed, the six public entities will apply for grant funding to help with implementation of the plan.

 

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