News and views, and history and humor, about the lake I love.

"I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie, where vessels and cargos and fortunes, and sailors' lives were lost." ~ James Taylor, Millworker

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pic of the week

Davis-Besse Power Station, taken with my trusty Fuji camera late last November from Catawba Island, looking west. As you can see from the chop on Lake Erie, it was a pretty blustery day!
Taken with my trusty 

The Walleye Festival and the future of Port Clinton

The big event this Memorial Day weekend here in my hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio is the 31st annual Walleye Festival. There will be rides and entertainment, a parade through town, and a fishing derby for the kids.
As I watched the workmen setting up the various rides and kiosks down at the Waterworks Park yesterday morning, I couldn't help but ponder what has become of my town. For sure, the festivities this weekend will be grand family fun. Port Clinton - the self-proclaimed "Walleye capitol of the world" - no doubt will attract thousands of locals as well as out-of-towners to the festivities. All this is good, yet it still makes me wonder.
How a place chooses to identify itself says a lot about that place. The city fathers have chosen to make the name Port Clinton synonymous with a game fish, and for good reason. Sports fisherman swarm here from places far and wide to pursue the feisty walleye and their presence here puts a lot of bread on the table of any number of charter boat operations, tackle and bait shops, restaurants, etc. Yet, as you walk around town, and in particular the harbor area, just as there is so much that goes on here, there is so much more that does not.
Port Clinton has an undeniably beautiful harbor, but any any local will tell you, it's pretty much going to waste. Walk up and down Madison Street and its adjoining thoroughfares and see how many shops have been boarded up. Talk to any of the former owners of those now-boarded-up shops (if you can find them), or to anyone who has tried to make a go of it in town and they will tell you pretty much the same thing: the city didn't lift a finger to help them. No tax breaks or incentives. Okay, fine, a business should be able to make it on its own. But what bothers folks the most is the absence of anything in town to attract tourists on a day-to-day basis. For far to many of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock to the area, Port Clinton is merely a parking lot for those waiting to catch the Jet Express to Put-in-Bay.
One shop owner I spoke with a few summers ago, whose shop now sits vacant, told me downtown is dying because people have no reason to come here. This was due in no small part to the fact that the Jet Express had relocated from downtown to the west side of the lift bridge, reportedly because the city fathers, in their infinite wisdom, had refused them a proposed tax break for the construction of overflow parking at the waterworks park. The one constant that ran through our conversation was that, too often it seemed, the people in this town who call the shots make decisions based on what's good for a few and not for the long-term benefit of the community. If you don't think that's true, look at the 'blight' in the form of condos blocking the view of the lake in town. (I'm not against people having condos by the lake, but I think it's fair to ask how much of itself a town should give up for the benefit of the few who are only going to be staying here for a few months out of the year. Isn't that a discussion to have?)
All is not gloom and doom. There are folks here who care enough to want to change things. A nonprofit called Main Street Port Clinton (MSPP) wants to see Port Clinton revitalized. Reading their stated purpose on their website is to restore one's faith in small government again: "Main Street Port Clinton ... believes that revitalization is a comprehensive, incremental, self-help economic strategy that focuses on developing public-private partnerships to enhance community livability and job creation while maintaining the historic character of Port Clinton." Sounds pretty good to me. Check out their website and throw your support behind this effort. While you're at it, visit places like Goderich, Ontario or, for that matter, Huron, Ohio, just up the road, to see what a harbor town can be. There's nothing magic about it. Port Clinton has everything those towns have, except perhaps will and desire. Port Clinton can be a place like that; the people just have to want it bad enough. But don't wait too long because Port Clinton is on life support.
Long live the walleye.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The carp are coming! The carp are coming!

For some time we've heard stories about the possibility that yet another invasive species could establish a population in Lake Erie and potentially devastate the fishery here. This time the culprit is the Asian Carp.

This story, posted yesterday on the website Lake Scientist, offers a good summary of the concerns and issues. There seem to be a lot of people working on this one. No doubt millions will be spent on a solution. It might work, it might not. But this is nature we're talking about. To quote a line from the movie Deep Blue Sea, "If she wants in, she's coming."

Invasive species like the Asian Carp are nothing new to the lake. It has survived the Sea Lamprey, the Gody, and the Zebra Mussel. Though I hear these Asian Carp are pretty nasty fellows. They say one swallow a Personal Watercraft whole. (Hmmm. Maybe these things aren't so bad after all.)

Well I'm not worried a bit one little bit. Lake Erie has taken pretty much everything man or nature can throw at it. We've dumped sewage into it and pretty much every toxic chemical known to man. Heck, we even bomb it. Make no mistake about it - Lake Erie is one tough body of water.

So I say, bring it on, carp. Bring it. Good ole' Lake Erie will kick your ass and hand it to you for breakfast. And laugh.

Kidding aside, you can do something to stop the Asian Carp invasion. Michigan's attorney general, Mike Cox, is taking an aggressive stand and has a website for those willing to be more proactive.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lake Erie exemption deleted from drilling bill

The Toledo Blade reported on Saturday that language exempting specifically exempting Lake Erie from a controversial bill to open state lands to drilling for oil and natural gas had been "quietly removed" from the legislation.

The bill in question is H.B.133. You can find an analysis of the bill here.

According to the Blade, Rep. Dennis Murray (D., Sandusky) said he will seek to reinsert the language when the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee takes up amendments on Tuesday. The bill could reach the full House floor as soon as Wednesday.

Rep. David Hall (R., Killbuck), the committee’s chairman, said removal of the language does not hint at an agenda to pursue drilling on and under Lake Erie.

My question is this: If there is no "agenda" in the no-drill language being "quietly removed" from the legislation, then why remove it? Are these guys up to something?

A coalition of 27 environment groups in Ohio, including the Buckeye Forestry Council, and the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club sent a letter to Governor Kasich and the leader of the Ohio House to voice opposition to House Bill 133, which would open up State Parks to oil and gas drilling.

Contact your state rep. or senator, or call the Governor's office ASAP and voice your opposition to the removal of language protecting Lake Erie from oil and gas drilling.

Welcome to Lake Erie Winds

Welcome to the premiere of Lake Erie Winds, a blog devoted to that expansive, cantankerous, awe inspiring body of water that is our fourth largest Great Lake.

In the coming weeks and months we will report on news and event of this remarkable body of fresh water, from Buffalo to Detroit. Everything is fair game: lake commerce, history, environmental issues, and pretty much anything else that has to do with Lake Erie. I will share my own photographs and those of contributors that I think are worth sharing with readers. I will also share stories of life along the lake, and the lore and legend that makes this southernmost of the lakes so special.

I welcome your suggestions on topics to cover, leads on developing stories, and links to stories from your local media that you think may be of interest to a wider audience.

Born and raised at Port Clinton, Ohio, I came of age along Erie's sandy lake shore. During my summer growing up I spent almost every waking moment traipsing through the Erie's soft sand, swimming in her warm waters, or in 14 or 15 foot rowboat fishing for perch a quarter mile offshore. I saw the lightening flash and listened to the thunder roll across her roiling surface. I watched in awe as summer and fall storms sprang up so quickly I could scarcely believe it.

This blog, then, is an expression of love and admiration for one of our great bodies of fresh water and a true national treasure. It is my hope that by sharing and discussing all that was and is grand about this wonderful body of water, I can in some small way help preserve it for future generations.