By JIM MAURER
As a kid, Dick Taylor remembers a long stretch of sandy beach at East Harbor State Park on the Marblehead Peninsula.
In fact, the 2½-mile beach was named “Sandy Beach” before the state bought the property in the 1940s and developed the state park along the Lake Erie shoreline.
In the early to mid-1960s, the state installed a 9,000-foot seawall at the park to protect the shore.
But a 1972 storm washed away most of the sandy beach, leaving about a quarter-mile open to the public. Waves which hit the seawall washed away 90 percent of the sand.
Taylor, 62, facilities manager at the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, has been trying for 11 years to get the area restored to its earlier condition.
“People want the beach back,” Taylor said. He said the beach is an hour and 15 minutes from Findlay, much closer than traveling out-of-state to vacation near water.
In the 1950s and 1960s, more than 1 million visitors annually visited the beach, he said. The number is less than half that now. Dog-walkers and bird-watchers are more plentiful, he said.
The park doesn’t have its old beach, but it has the largest campground in the state park system with more than 570 sites, a majority with electric hookups.
The condition of the beach has not changed since 2007 when Taylor sought public support for his grassroots effort.
But now an online survey being conducted by the state Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, seeks public input on potential projects in the state park system. The state Legislature has approved $88.5 million to be spent over the next two years.
Taylor would like to see about 2,000 of the 9,000 feet of seawall removed as a “demonstration project” to let wave action and the sand dune behind the wall naturally restore the beach area. A contractor has estimated the proposal’s cost at $250,000, Taylor said.
It would take Division of Parks and Recreation approval and state funding to get the work done.
There is no guarantee the beach would be restored with the seawall removed, but Taylor said restoration should happen within a season or two. If not, the section of seawall could be replaced, he said.
The area’s condition since the 1972 storm shows the beach will not be restored without removal of the seawall, he said.
But the state has said it is not interested in removing the seawall, Taylor said.
An email to the state agency asking about the online survey and proposed projects at East Harbor State Park prompted a news release in reply that listed a shower house upgrade, which opened this spring.
There was no response to inquiries about how long the survey would be posted online, and what impact survey responses might have on deciding where money would be spent.
Taylor said Division of Parks and Recreation personnel have stopped talking and returning emails to him and members of a nonprofit volunteer group, Beachaid-Eastharbor. He has contacted state legislators who have said they will look into the situation.
Despite the survey, Taylor thinks decisions on projects have been made already. Announcements of other projects have been made in recent weeks while the survey remains posted on the Department of Natural Resources website at parks.ohiodnr.gov/improvements.
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