LORAIN — The county lakefront could look quite differently in the near future if the Lorain County Lakefront Connectivity Plan becomes a reality.
On Thursday, the final public meeting for the Lorain County Lakefront Connectivity Plan was held at Lakeview Park to discuss ways the lakefront communities in the county can best use Lake Erie for economic development.
The cities of Avon Lake, Lorain, Sheffield Lake and Vermilion, along with the county commissioners, Metro Parks officials and the Environmental Design Group have been working on a plan to connect the cities via bike paths and walking trails. Additionally, the each city has come up with plans for a lakefront development that would make it a destination stop.
“There’s five Great Lakes. We have one of those five in our front yard,” Lorain County Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik said. “What are we doing with it? That’s why we want to talk about this connectivity.”
During the presentation, Michelle Johnson of EDG discussed various ways to connect the 26 miles of state Route 6, which runs along the lakefront, together with sidewalks, bike paths and trails. The group said the best plan would include a combination of bike lanes, 8-foot sidewalks, and 10-foot asphalt trails.
Johnson estimated the total cost of the project would be $30 million but said it would be done in phases. Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy reiterated the project would be done in phases throughout the evening.
“Nothing’s going to happen overnight,” Lundy said. “It’ll take time.”
Lundy said the project would largely be funded by grants, but the grants take time to get. He also said in order to get those grants, the county needs to have a development plan.
“This planning was made possible through a planning grant with NOACA, the Northeast Ohio Area-wide Coordinating Agency,” he said. “They basically are in charge of funding federal dollars for transportation projects around the area. This is one of the grants that was made available that we went after in Lorain County.”
To take advantage of the possible connectivity between the communities, each city was asked to submit a plan that would draw people.
“The first part of the plan was the transportation part for how do we get people out?” Johnson said. “The second piece of this was to understand what one development site do you want us to focus on? We sat down in multiple meetings with every single community to find out where they wanted us to think about economic development and redevelopment.”
The first development site Johnson discussed was a nature park and educational center near Baumhart Road. The owner of the property the group is looking at has indicated interest in either donating or selling the land to allow for the development.
For Lorain, the development plan would include a conference center and hotel along the lakefront and the Black River. Johnson said the center wouldn’t be a full convention center, but a conference center.
Johnson said Sheffield Lake’s development idea was “very bold” and involved creating a marina district with housing and restaurants.
Avon Lake’s plan called for a “Lakefront District” that would include beaches, restaurants, condominiums, town houses, apartments and office space along the coastline.
Lundy said each of the plans would create points along the coastline that would draw people to the Lorain County lakefront, and in turn create economic growth. He also admitted some of the ideas were big and a little out there, but said it’s better to think big and then rein things in later.
Once EDG completes its plan for the connectivity portion, Lundy said the next step will be for the county to begin seeking grants.