In some regards, Sandusky just can’t compete with most metropolises.
But the small city just pulled off a major upset, snagging a new and rare research opportunity many other waterfront communities — such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Buffalo and others — also wanted.
The federal government recently awarded grants to just two U.S. cities abutting a Great Lake: Cleveland and Sandusky.
An unspecified amount will fund green infrastructure projects with an emphasis on reducing poisonous stormwater runoff entering bodies of water, like Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie.
“We pushed for Sandusky the whole way because there are so many amazing things happening in the city,” said Matt Schmidt, a Cleveland-based program director for The Trust for Public Land organization.
The national nonprofit helps conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, natural areas and open spaces.
Nonprofit workers coordinated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which ultimately approved Sandusky as one of two venues.
One reason Sandusky landed the grant: Both organizations appreciated the city’s recent efforts in creating a proactive citywide master plan addressing waterfront, environmental and sustainability issues.
“Sandusky can be a model community for other cities around the Great Lakes,” Schmidt said. “What we learn here could help inspire other cities across the Great Lakes to think about their communities in a new light. It’s about preserving and protecting what we have.”
Solutions developed in Sandusky, an 18-month testing period begins this spring, can be replicated in other communities bordering the Great Lakes.
To reward Sandusky as a host community, workers could develop pilot projects featuring environmentally friendly characteristics, such as an energy-efficient building or contemporary park.
“This city commission and staff have made it a priority to aggressively plan for a brighter future for Sandusky that involves access to our waterfront and greener infrastructure,” city commissioner Dick Brady said. “This natural resource is vital to our economy and quality of life, and we have an obligation to our citizens as well as our children and grandchildren to preserve it.”