State of the Beach/State Reports/OH/Beach Access
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The Public Trust, which includes Lake Erie's water, the lands beneath the water, and the resources living in the water, is held in trust by the State of Ohio for the benefit of its citizens. The State, acting as a trustee for all Ohioans, allows public land and natural resources to be used for recreation, public infrastructure, private enterprise, and in the case of Lake Erie, protection of littoral property from flooding and erosion.
The Public Trust Doctrine recognizes that littoral (shoreline) property owners have the right to reasonably use the water fronting their property.
A case regarding the boundary of the Lake Erie public trust territory is currently being heard in the Ohio Supreme Court. However, a ruling in this matter will not affect how or where the public can access existing public lands adjacent to Lake Erie.
The Ohio Coastal Management Program's Policy 16, Public Trust Lands, reads:
- "IT IS THE POLICY OF THE STATE OF OHIO TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC TRUST HELD WATERS AND LANDS UNDERLYING THE WATERS OF LAKE ERIE, PROTECT PUBLIC USES OF LAKE ERIE AND MINIMIZE THE OCCUPATION OF PUBLIC TRUST LANDS FOR PRIVATE BENEFIT BY:
- A. REGULATING OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS BY REQUIRING A LEASE FOR THE USE OF SUBMERGED LANDS (O.R.C. 1506.10 AND 1506.11 AND O.A.C. 1501-6-01 THROUGH 1501-6-06);
- B. REGULATING RECOVERY OF SUBMERGED ABANDONED PROPERTY THROUGH PERMITS (O.R.C. 1506.32); AND
- C. ESTABLISHING AND ENFORCING LAKE ERIE SUBMERGED LANDS PRESERVES (O.R.C. 1506.31)."
The Coastal Program's Policy 21, Lakeshore Recreation and Access, reads:
- "IT IS THE POLICY OF THE STATE OF OHIO TO PROVIDE LAKESHORE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND PUBLIC ACCESS AND ENCOURAGE TOURISM ALONG LAKE ERIE BY:
- A. PROVIDING FOR PUBLIC ACCESS TO COASTAL AREAS WITHIN THE STATE NATURE PRESERVE SYSTEM THROUGH ARTICLES OF DEDICATION WHEREVER POSSIBLE AND CONSISTENT WITH PRESERVATION AND PROTECTION OF THE LAND (O.R.C. 1517.05);
- B. PROTECTING PUBLIC ACCESS RIGHTS TO LAKE ERIE WATERS AND SHORELINE AREAS WHERE COMPATIBLE WITH EXISTING AND PLANNED USES OF WATERFRONT AREAS THROUGH THE LAKE ERIE SUBMERGED LANDS LEASING PROGRAM (O.R.C. 1506.11 AND O.A.C. 1506-6-01 THROUGH 1501-6-06);
- C. DEVELOPING AND MAINTAINING SHOREFRONT STATE PARKS (O.R.C. CHAPTER 1541);
- D. PROVIDING FOR COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENT OF RECREATIONAL NEEDS AND PLANNING FOR FACILITIES TO MEET THOSE NEEDS THROUGH THE STATEWIDE COMPREHENSIVE OUTDOOR RECREATION PLAN (SCORP) AND LAKE ERIE ACCESS PROGRAM (LEAP);
- E. ASSISTING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO DEVELOP LAKESHORE AND URBAN WATERFRONT RECREATIONAL AREAS BY PROVIDING FINANCIAL AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE;
- F. PROVIDING FOR RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES SUCH AS HIKING, BIRD WATCHING AND INTERPRETIVE SERVICES AT STATE PARKS, WILDLIFE AREAS AND NATURE PRESERVES AND ENCOURAGING LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND OTHER AGENCIES TO PROVIDE GREATER ACCESS TO THE SHORE OF LAKE ERIE; AND
- G. ENCOURAGING THE INCORPORATION OF PUBLIC ACCESS AND APPLICABLE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES INTO THE PLANNING OF PRIVATE DEVELOPMENTS AND PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS LOCATING ALONG THE SHORE OR RIVERS IN THE COASTAL AREA."
Ohio's Section 309 Programmatic Objectives for Public Access are:
- I. Improve public access through regulatory, statutory, and legal systems.
- II. Acquire, improve, and maintain public access sites to meet current and future demand through the use of innovative funding and acquisition techniques.
- III. Develop or enhance a Coastal Public Access Management Plan that takes into account the provision of public access to all users of coastal areas of recreational, historical, aesthetic, ecological, and cultural value.
- IV. Minimize potential adverse impacts of public access on coastal resources and private property rights through appropriate protection measures.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has protected significant stretches of Lake Erie shore with acquisitions of rare coastal open space on North Bass Island- 589 acres and Marblehead Peninsula- about 10 acres. These significant additions to the recreational diversity of the coastal region will help boost the economic impact of travel and tourism along Ohio’s North Coast by providing access to over 2 miles of shore. These acquisitions were accomplished utilizing a variety of federal and state funding sources including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Great Lakes Coastal Restoration Grant Program and the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program.
The NatureWorks Program is administered by ODNR and identifies projects funded by the Ohio Parks and Natural Resources Bond Issue which was approved by Ohio voters in November 1993. The NatureWorks grant program provides up to 75% reimbursement assistance for local government subdivisions (townships, villages, cities, counties, park districts, joint recreation districts, and conservancy districts) for the acquisition, development, and rehabilitation of recreational areas.
The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was passed by Congress in September 1964, and became effective January 1965. The Land and Water Conservation Fund grant program provides up to 50% reimbursement assistance for state and local government subdivisions (townships, villages, cities, counties, park districts, joint recreation districts, and conservancy districts) for the acquisition, development, and rehabilitation of recreational areas. These funds have been used toward the acquisition of approximately 238 acres adjacent to Mentor Marsh and the construction of 1.6 miles of paved trail at the Canal Reservation in Cuyahoga Heights.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (PL 105-178), commonly referred to as TEA-21, reauthorized the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). The RTP provides for the transfer of federal gas taxes paid on fuel used in off-highway vehicles used for recreational purposes. The funds can be used to assist government agencies and trail groups in the rehabilitation, development, maintenance, and acquisition of recreational trails and related facilities. The trails may be motorized, non-motorized, or multiple use trails. RTP funds can also be used for environmental protection and safety education projects related to trails. Five projects have been funded in coastal adjacent counties to construct and restore trails and to construct pedestrian bridge crossings in places such as the West Creek Preserve in Parma. West Creek is a tributary to the Cuyahoga River.
In early 2007, the OCM took over the primary administrative role for the State’s Coastal & Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) and the State’s land acquisition projects funded through CELCP. Ohio has also developed and submitted a draft CELCP plan and is currently in the process of finalizing the State’s plan. The CELCP Coordinator within the OCMP oversees the annual CELCP competitive grant application process, including drafting the state request for proposals, review of state applications, coordination and facilitation of grant workshops, coordination of state review committee, project reviews, and compiling state projects for federal application. The office also provides technical assistance for CELCP earmarked projects within the Lake Erie watershed. This assistance is beneficial to both the local recipients and to NOAA and supports the development and improvement of public access to Lake Erie coastal resources.
Approximately 85% of the land bordering Lake Erie in Ohio is developed and held in private ownership.
Only 13% of the Lake Erie shoreline is open to public access.
Ohio's 2006-2010 Coastal Assessment and Strategy states:
"The Ohio portion of Lake Erie shore encompasses approximately 312 miles including the island areas. Of these 312 miles of shore, 41.7 miles or approximately 13 percent are publicly accessible including 6.59 miles of public beaches that are monitored for water quality.
Many types of access are available from parks, preserves and wildlife areas to fishing and boating access sites and facilities. There are 12 state parks within the Coastal Management Area that feature beaches, trails, fishing access, boating access, scenic vistas and historical/cultural information. Numerous local parks also feature shore access and lake viewing opportunities. Erie County, which includes Kelleys Island, has the most public access sites (25) of the coastal counties. Fishing enthusiasts can choose from 69 access locations. For boaters, there are 61 government-owned boating access sites, 169 commercial sites, and 70 boating club sites.
Access to Lake Erie’s underwater archaeological resources has been enhanced through several initiatives to expand the educational resources available and facilitate public access to these valuable resources. The Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center (PLESRC) at the Great Lakes Historical Society has accomplished several actions with Section 306 funds from the Office of Coastal Management. The Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center is kept open to the general public; data on Lake Erie shipwrecks is gathered and digitized; outreach to the general public is conducted about the existence and current state of Lake Erie shipwrecks; and workshops for divers are held that culminate in an underwater survey of a Lake Erie shipwreck. Public access to shipwrecks has been improved with Lake Erie Protection Fund dollars that were awarded to the Ohio Coastal Management Program to place mooring buoys on six shipwrecks in Lake Erie. The Ohio Coastal Management Program contracted with the Maritime Archaeological Survey Team to deploy the buoys. The buoys enable recreational divers and researchers to more easily locate the shipwrecks and to moor their vessels in a way that helps protect the shipwrecks from damage. Planning for an additional educational initiative was conducted by the Office of Coastal Management for a project to develop an underwater trailway for Ohio’s Lake Erie. This project will be accomplished through work with the Ohio Sea Grant College Program and will result in a website and written materials to distribute to the public."
Ohio has excellent beach access information, including the Ohio DNR Lake Erie Public Access Guide. Each of the 164 public access locations in the 8 coastal counties along Ohio’s 312-mile coast are illustrated with a map, narrative, list of amenities, photographs, address and location coordinates. Maps of Ohio's coast can be downloaded and printed. Maps of sites within each county can be downloaded and printed on each county's page; a map of each site can be downloaded and printed from each site's page. There is also an online interactive map viewer of all sites.
In addition, beach access information can be obtained from Chapter 5 of the Ohio Coastal Atlas, Outdoor Recreation and Tourism.
Ohio State Parks provides information on swimming and in the Find a Park section of their website there is a map that allows you to click on each park location to get detailed information on that park.
There is also information on Lake Erie water temperatures, water level, and state and county beach monitoring results.
The USACE took oblique images of the entire Great Lakes shoreline (USA portion only) in 2012 by plane and has provided the images for free online. Once you’ve opened the webpage, select a Great Lake (or river) of interest to you by checking the appropriate box in the left-hand window pane. You may select or deselect a particular state as well. To view an image of interest to you, zoom into the area on the Google satellite map (in middle), and then select a spot along one of the colored lines that you’d like to view. Note that each colored line represents an individual pass of an airplane. Once you select a spot along the line, a window pane on the right will appear showing you the image of that exact spot on the map. Double clicking the image will enlarge it and offer metadata. If you scroll up and down and select different images in the right-hand window pane, your camera icon on the satellite map will move along with your picture change.
Beach Attendance Records
More than 8 million people visited Cleveland Lakefront State Park in 2004, making it
the most visited of Ohio’s 74 state parks.
In fact more than twice as many people
recreated along this stretch of Cuyahoga
County’s lakeshore than in Ohio’s second most visited state park, Alum
Creek located north of Columbus, which
had 3.7 million visitors. In 2004, Geneva State Park was the fourth most visited
park in the state tallying more than 2.4
million visitors. The 12 state parks adjacent
to Lake Erie (Maumee Bay, Crane
Creek, Catawba Island, East Harbor,
Marblehead Lighthouse, South Bass
Island, Middle Bass Island, Oak Point,
Kelleys Island, Cleveland Lakefront,
Headlands Beach and Geneva) combined
for nearly 17.3 million day visits by
Ohio residents and visitors in 2004.
Economic Evaluation of Beaches
Along Lake Erie, visitors spent $8.7
billion in 2004. These are direct dollars
exchanged for purchases such as
gas, lodging, food, attractions, bait,
etc. The tourism industry supported
more than 146,800 full-time equivalent
jobs with a payroll of more
than $2.6 billion. In addition, tourism
sales generated state and local
taxes that were used to fund other
programs such as schools, roads and
social services. In 2004, tourism generated
$386 million in state taxes
and $229 million in local taxes
The Coastal Economy Project will result in the compilation of existing research and the initiation of new research to characterize the coastal economy in Ohio. The project will be completed in two phases. The first phase will summarize economic data already collected through the National Ocean Economics Program. This will provide the OCMP with a “snapshot” of Ohio’s coastal economy. The first phase report will be considered by a steering committee to provide direction for a second phase, which will include new research that will measure the impact of Ohio’s coastal resources to the state’s economy. Once the relationship between coastal resources and the coastal economy is more clearly understood, it can be shared with local communities and planners to positively affect the economic well being of the coastal region. It is hoped that this understanding will lead to decision-making that reduces cumulative and secondary impacts and enhances existing coastal resources.
A report coordinated by the Ohio Tourism Division and executed by Tourism Economics found that visitors generated nearly $1.6 billion in business activity, including direct, indirect, and induced impacts, in the Lake Erie Shores & Islands region in 2011. Also see Sea Grant economic impact studies.
During the summer of 1997, the Lake Erie Protection Fund, the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Lake County Visitor Bureau sponsored a survey of two Lake Erie beaches, Headlands State Park in northeast Ohio and Maumee Bay State Park in northwest Ohio. The Value of Lake Erie Beaches provides the results of those surveys.
An analysis of jobs in the Great Lakes region by Michigan Sea Grant published in 2011 shows that the Lakes are key to the economy of the Great Lakes states in many ways. More than 1.5 million Great Lakes-related jobs generated $62 billion in wages, in 2009. For the complete analysis, see: Great Lakes Jobs Report (PDF).
NOAA's Office for Coastal Management (OCM) has written a discussion of the recreational value of beaches, in the context of beach fill projects. In 2009 OCM released Introduction to Economics for Coastal Managers, a basic introduction to economic ideas and methods that can be applied to coastal resource management. The economic concepts provided in this introduction are illustrated through several case studies. Other OCM/Digital Coast publications can be found here.
The following two websites provide information on the economic value of coasts and the ocean throughout the country.
The National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) provides a full range of the most current economic and socio-economic information available on changes and trends along the U.S. coast and in coastal waters. You can download data on jobs and GDP associated with specific types of coastal activities for each coastal state. You also can download data on commercial fishing and landings. The NOEP made public their fully updated Non-Market Valuation website in September 2008. The largest database in the world of studies documenting the environmental and recreational values of ocean resources, the website now includes 1) an updated methodologies section, 2) frequently asked questions, 3) examples of how Non-Market valuation influences public policy, and 4) an expanded table summarizing valuation estimates from across the United States. In 2014 NOEP released an updated State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2014, which points out that there is an imbalance between the economic importance of coasts and coastal oceans and the federal support for stewardship of these resources. According to the report, coastal states supply over 81 percent of American jobs and contribute $13 trillion to the economy, or 84 percent of GDP. More on this here. The National Ocean Economics Program previously released State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2009, which presents time-series data compiled over the past 10 years that track economic activities, demographics, natural resource production, non-market values, and federal expenditures in the U.S. coastal zone on land and water. The report states that coastal states account for more than 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The most recent report released by NOEP is the State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economies - 2016. The Center for the Blue Economy (CBE) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey now houses the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP).
The website of Restore America's Estuaries has a report The Economic and Market Value of Coasts and Estuaries: What's At Stake?. According to the report, U.S. coasts and estuaries that have been protected and managed in a sustainable way are worth billions. Beaches, coastal communities, ports, and fragile bays are economic engines that drive and support large sectors of the national economy. The report focuses on aspects of coasts and estuaries that are most dependent on ecologically healthy conditions. The authors also examined a growing body of research that reveals the economic consequences of environmental change in coastal and estuary ecosystems.
A report A Review and Summary of Human Use Mapping in the Marine and Coastal Zone was published in December 2010. This report was prepared by ERG for NOAA's Coastal Services Center. The report evaluated different methods and approaches to measure human uses of the coastal and marine environment. The uses were divided into 1) military and industrial uses, 2) consumptive uses (e.g., fishing) and 3) non-consumptive activities (e.g., swimming, surfing, kayaking).
The economic value of beaches can increase or decrease due to a number of factors, including beach width; the presence or absence of amenities such as parking, restrooms or lifeguard services; the suitability of the beach for activities such as surfing or swimming; and the presence or absence of pollution and beach litter. In June 2014 NOAA published an infographic on the high cost of marine debris based on the report Assessing the Economic Benefits of Reductions in Marine Debris: A Pilot Study of Beach Recreation in Orange County, California, which was prepared by Industrial Economics, Inc. for NOAA's Marine Debris Division. It found that having debris on the beach and good water quality are the leading factors in deciding which beach residents visit. Reducing marine debris by even 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County, California, could save residents approximately $32 million during the summer by not having to travel long distances to other beaches. Beach characteristics were collected for 31 popular Southern California public beaches from San Onofre Beach to Zuma Beach. Orange County residents were also surveyed on their recreation habits, including how many day trips they took to the beach from June - August 2013, where they went, how much it cost them, and which beach characteristics are important to them. The results provided in an estimate if how much Orange County residents would potentially benefit, including how often they visit beaches and how much they would save in travel costs, over a summer season by reducing marine debris at some or all of these 31 beaches. The study focused on Orange County because of the number and variety of beaches, their importance to permanent residents, ease of access, and likelihood that marine debris would be present. Researchers believe that, given the results, the study could be modified for assessing similar coastal communities in the United States.
For additional general discussion of the economic impacts of beaches, please see the article Economic Impact of Beaches.
Perception of Supply and Demand
Ohio's 2006-2010 Assessment and strategy notes:
"There continues to be a high demand for public access as indicated in the previous assessment. Ohio’s population is approximately 11.5 million with nearly 25% living in the nine Coastal Management Area counties. Lake Erie continues to be the state’s primary region for recreation and tourism.
The following statistics are based on information from an opinion survey conducted in 2003 for the purpose of compiling the Lake Erie Quality Index published in 2004. The Lake Erie Quality Index was first published in 1998. Seventy percent of Ohio residents have visited Lake Erie at some time in their lives. Almost half of those who had visited the lake had done so within the previous year. The opinion survey specifically addressed public access to facilities. On a scale of 0 to 4, where 4 equaled very satisfied, coastal recreation accessibility received an overall score of 3.27, which was equal to a rating of Good and showed an improvement over the score of 3.07 received in the 1997 survey.
While the majority of lake users are satisfied with the lake as a recreation site, the demand for access continues to rise. According to Ohio’s 2003 SCORP, “Water-based recreation activities continue to be among the most popular in our water-rich state. Fishing, swimming, beach activities, and boating all rank among Ohioans’ favorite outdoor recreation pursuits. Recreation providers should continue to provide and emphasize water-based opportunities while attempting to provide better and increased access to the state’s water resources.
Chief among the significant impediments to providing increased public access is the fact that approximately 85% of the land bordering Lake Erie in Ohio is developed and held in private ownership. Most recreational access improvements at the state and federal level are anticipated to be either enhancement or renovation of existing facilities or acquisitions from willing sellers. At the local level, there has been some increase in new access sites in the last few years, using Coastal Management Assistance Grants (CMAG) and boating access grants. Inland sites within the Coastal Management Area are only slightly more available. Increased emphasis has been placed upon providing connections between facilities using trails, greenways and other linkages, especially within the context of several new regional planning initiatives. Local entities are identifying corridors and rights-of-way and either acquiring them or converting them to recreational use.
The lack of availability of lakefront properties, coupled with the desirability of the location and generally rising real estate prices, places a high premium on such land. As a result, the extremely high cost of purchasing such land is an additional impediment.
Lake levels, both high and low, present an additional challenge for recreational opportunities on Lake Erie as well. Formidable erosive effects during many years prior to 1998 impaired or threatened a number of existing public recreation and access sites. Further, the extensive armoring of the shore and the transport of large quantities of sand offshore as a result of open lake disposal, storms and high lake levels have left the shore with an acute scarcity of sand for public recreational beaches. Since the previous assessment, the lake’s level has remained fairly consistent with the long term average.
While demand for marinas and other docking facilities along the shore is high, construction of marinas is not possible in some areas due to shallow depths, substrate content, and other physical constraints. Additionally, the environmental impacts of these and most other recreational facilities must be considered during permit review and submerged lands leasing processes. The resource management objectives of protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and local planning and protection of quality of life are significant considerations that must be weighed when new marinas and other recreational facilities are planned."
ODNR has updated Ohio's Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) which sets Ohio’s outdoor recreation strategies and funding priorities for the next five years. The updated 2008 plan is Ohio’s eighth SCORP.
Public Education Program
Data collected by the ODNR Office of
Coastal Management for the Lake Erie GIS was used to develop the Ohio Coastal Atlas first
edition, released in 2005, that included boating access maps and maps of ODNR and non-ODNR
protected lands. Some but not all of the protected lands allow for public access. A second edition of the atlas was released in
2007. This edition devotes an entire chapter to public access related information and maps.
It includes outdoor recreation maps featuring areas such as campgrounds, public hunting areas, trails, and ferry lines in the coastal area. It also includes maps that identify publicly accessible
lakefront locations for fishing, beaches, campgrounds, and other uses. The Ohio Coastal Atlas has been
distributed throughout the coastal region and is also available on the OCM website. In addition, OCM
unveiled a Coastal Internet Map Site (IMS) in September 2005 that enables users to create their own
custom maps for the Lake Erie watershed. Data layers for boating facilities, state designated scenic
rivers, and public fishing points are available on the IMS at this time with trails, publicly accessible
shore, and Ohio Historical Society points scheduled to be added.
The ODNR Division of Watercraft has developed GIS Web applications for boating access and they have on-going website improvements. New publications have been developed such as the Ohio Boat Launch Areas map to improve outreach on recreational boating opportunities. This publication can be requested through their website.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund and NatureWorks grant programs, administered through the ODNR Division of Real Estate and Land Management have developed an on-line grant application that will serve to streamline the application process for their public access programs.
The ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation has developed numerous publications and outreach initiatives. Publications include the Park Pals Activity Guide, Nature Things for Kids (a monthly Web feature), E-News from Ohio State Parks, and other new brochures on camping, getaway rentals, golfing and winter recreation that educate and inform the public about the facilities and resources available in Ohio, including along Lake Erie. The Division has also partnered with Pepsi to produce promotional radio tags. Ohio State Park displays with brochures have been installed at park lodges and at Ohio Department of Transportation tourist information centers.
The Lake Erie Coastal Trail was designated as Ohio’s fifth National Scenic Byway in September 2005 after having first obtained Ohio Scenic Byway status in April 2005. The more than 290 mile route closely follows the shore from Conneaut on Ohio/Pennsylvania border to downtown Toledo at the western end of Lake Erie. The byway mostly follows SR 2 and US 6 but also includes other local and state routes. The Lake Erie Coastal Trail is the second longest byway in Ohio. There are more than 250 Discovery Sites where travelers can experience the natural beauty, historical tales and outdoor recreation available along Ohio's Lake Erie shore. Lake Erie Coastal Ohio coordinated the effort to pursue state and then national scenic byway status. Public service announcements regarding Lake Erie were developed to communicate positive messages about the lake and its resources.
Office of Coastal Management
105 West Shoreline Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
- Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan 2008, Ohio Lake Erie Commission
- Chapter 5, Ohio Coastal Atlas: Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
- Chapter 5, Ohio Coastal Atlas: Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
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