Wednesday, August 13, 2014

$2 million improvements to Painesville Township Park to also aid Lake Erie shore anglers

After more than 100 years of providing outdoors recreational opportunities, Painesville Township Park in Lake County stands to gain from a major makeover.

And that’s good news for shore-bound Lake Erie anglers. The park’s lakefront property had long been a popular go-to destination for steelheaders as well as fishers seeking smallmouth bass, white bass, and even walleye.

Now the 37-acre park – acquired by Painesville Township in 1911with a history that includes a former Ohio governor and a timeline dating to 1807 – will remain under the management of Lake Metroparks for another 25 years while the township’s park board retains property ownership.

A revised lease renewal deal between Lake Metroparks and the Painesville Township Park Board was signed and delivered August 13. The county parks system will continue to look after the park for another quarter century.

Along with that administration commitment the Lake Metroparks system will pour an already budgeted $1.5 million worth of improvements into the park. The county parks system’s township counterpart will kick in $500,000. These latter dollars will come from the state’s local government fund account.

What users of the park will see is a total – and very much needed – refurbishment of 800 linear feet of breakwater, yanking out an ineffective and collapsing steel bulkhead. In its place will go a strategically placed and marine engineered concrete buttresses along the same length.

This substantially improved shoreline protection enhancement will help ensure that further erosion of the park’s lake-facing sloping bluff is arrested, said Paul Palagyi, Lake Metroparks’ Executive Director.

Along with the shoreline reinforcement will come a set of people-friendly stairs down to the shore-lake meridian as well as a handicapped-accessible switch-back trail. This trail will enable those people who utilize mobile vehicles to enjoy the same shoreline access as those people without physical disabilities, Palagyi says.

“Two years ago we had to close off access to the shoreline because the bulkhead was collapsing into the lake and the old pier had become just too unsafe,” Palagyi said, and who added everything should be in place by early 2016.

It is the planned improvement’s second phase that will excite anglers most of all. The plans call for the construction of a 150-foot long, 20-foot wide steel-reinforced pier.

A belt of interlocking steel will hold in the required fill of stone, the whole being finished with a topping that will allow visitors to safely walk the length of the promenade; and give anglers a platform to cast from where they can easily hunt for roaming fish.

Among the targeted fish species being walleye, smallmouth bass white bass, and steelhead trout.

However, the pier will not link directly with the shoreline. Instead, a 50-foot long bridge will span the gap. Yet the bridge serves a practical purpose even more than it does as an esthetically pleasing one, Palagyi says.

“The bridge will allow for water to freely flow underneath and that will help break up the wave action which in turn will help ease the threat of erosion,” Palagyi said.

The angling here can be exceptional, too. Unlike much of the rest of Lake County’s near shore lake bottom which consists of sand, mud and muck, that is not the case off Painesville Township Park.

Rock, stone, pebbly gravel all are found in abundance here. This substrate attracts the smallmouth bass and white bass during the day and the walleye in the evening until well after dark.

As for the steelhead, fishers once determined that the now-dilapidated concrete pier provided an outstanding location for the annual autumn ritual of migrating steelhead trout. The fish would cruise along the shoreline until they homed in on the nearby Grand River. And the pier offered the perfect ambush pincher point.

Taking the anglers’ needs into account even further, Lake plans call for the placement of one fish-attracting structure on either side of the pier and well within casting distance.

Thus the announcement of the new pier and bridge arrives as welcome news to area steelheaders, including Mentor’s Bob Ashley who is requesting an additional angling amenity.

“This is really good news because the fishing is so good there,” Ashley said. “But I hope they add some lighting along the pier or even from the shore and aiming out into the lake.”

The reason for Ashley’s plea is that such lighting striking the lake’s surface at night attracts bait fish which pulls in their predatory nemesis, the walleye.

“I can just picture now the glowing eyes of walleye underneath the light and looking for bait fish,” Ashley said.

For both Lake Metroparks officials and those associated with the Painesville Township Park Board the lease renewal and the planned expenditure of $2 million in enhancements and improvements is a striking example of two sides coming together for the good of the community.

“I see this as an investment for a very important resource,” said Dennis E. Eckart, Lake Metroparks’ park board president. ‘”This is a legacy park, and it’s the sort of project that people will judge us on long after we are gone.”

Agreeing is Bob Sidley, a 10-year township park trustee.

“This is a tremendous partnership and we are really excited about the project,” Sidley said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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