By April Miller
Photos by Jim Baron
Dubbed by many as a “modern conservation success story,” the Lake Metroparks property is home to such rare species as the bald eagle, smallmouth salamander, and yellow-breasted chat.
Open to the public since the summer of 2012, Lake Erie Bluffs was 10 years in the making.
“This property was so important to protect that a broad range of state/federal/private conservation organizations contributed funding to its protection and access,” Paul Palagyi, Lake Metroparks executive director, says.
The Cleveland Foundation funded the initial planning effort that brought together such groups as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, The Trust for Public Land and The Conservation Fund.
“Purchase of the property cost $11 million and $10 million of that came from these outside sources through competitive grant programs,” Palagyi says. “I think that fact is a great indication of how important it was on the local and national level to protect this property and provide public access to it.”
The property was originally purchased by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. “They worked hand-in-hand with Lake Metroparks to protect it. Without their support and the hard work of their dedicated staff,” Palagyi says, “this simply wouldn’t have happened.”
With initial construction of access roads, parking lots, and trails down to the beach completed, additional plans for the property are under way and include more than five miles of trails, construction of a four-season shelter (that will be available for event rental), and handicap-accessible overlooks.
“Thanks to the generosity of the Cleveland Foundation and our Lake Parks Foundation,” Palagyi says, “we will also be starting construction this year on a one-of-a-kind, 50-foot-tall observation tower that will provide guests with an amazing view of the lake and the surrounding habitat and wildlife.”
The park—located within a half mile of the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail, a national scenic byway—was named for the steep slopes, or bluffs (some reaching as high as 40 feet), that are the result of normal erosion where the lake meets the land. In addition to providing the sand that makes up the beaches, the bluffs also create a habitat for rare and endangered plant and animal species. The property serves as a critical location for migratory birds.
“Migrating birds need locations like this along Lake Erie to fuel up and rest during their long migrations,” Palagyi says, “and that creates an opportunity for birders to see a large number of birds they would otherwise never see.”
“Every year there are fewer locations where the public can access Lake Erie,” Palagyi says, “and this property not only provides access to our region’s greatest natural resource, it also provides visitors with the opportunity to enjoy a long, natural beach, which is a rare opportunity anymore.”
For more information: lakemetroparks.com
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