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BGSU-Sandusky partnership still possible

Andy Ouriel • Jul 2, 2015 at 10:10 AM

A high-ranking college administrator developed a hypothesis he believes can produce positive results for the entire community.   

His theory: Let Bowling Green State University partner with Sandusky to revitalize an underused city waterfront property. 

BGSU Firelands Dean Bill Balzer recently submitted a letter to city officials about the university’s interest in either locating an educational center or creating research opportunities at the Sandusky Bay Pavilion. The letter also focused on maintaining the property as a public park for community celebrations.   

In his vision, students — graduate, undergraduate and children enrolled in local school districts — would study Lake Erie’s ecosystem at the East Water Street property.   

At a glance

• BGSU Firelands Dean Bill Balzer wants to create a partnership with Sandusky officials in hopes of revitalizing the Sandusky Bay Pavilion.

• Balzer and college officials envision students — both in college and children enrolled in local school districts — coming to the East Water Street facility to study Lake Erie’s ecosystem.

• Sandusky city commissioner Diedre Cole and Balzer initiated a dialogue with the city a few months ago, centering on maintaining the property as a public venue for community celebrations.

Another idea involves setting up a research station, home to interactive science exhibits for students so they can perform hands-on experiments. “Bowling Green State University and BGSU Firelands remain interested in exploring educational opportunities at this site,” Balzer wrote in a letter to city commissioners. “We are excited about the opportunity to explore a stronger collaboration between BGSU and the city of Sandusky.   

Balzer’s letter comes just weeks after city commissioners voted 4-3 to keep the pavilion public property and not make any attempt to sell it.   

Commissioners who voted “yes” could’ve based their support after a passionate public forum at Sandusky High School a couple weeks beforehand. Many of the meeting’s 40 attendees spoke to keep the Sandusky Bay Pavilion a public facility. Even though Balzer didn’t attend, city officials hosting the forum placed him on speakerphone so he could voice support in keeping the pavilion public for research opportunities.   

“Our vision is that we can create some opportunities down there,” Balzer said at the meeting. Commissioner Diedre Cole, who organized a tour of the pavilion with college representatives, local schools officials and others, said she’s thrilled about Balzer’s enthusiasm to revitalize a rundown, albeit popular, facility. “It’s an incredible opportunity for Sandusky to participate in a collaborative effort that brings great educational resources into our community,” said Cole, one of four commissioners to vote “yes.”   

Even commissioners voting “no” on the proposal seemingly reversed course and now fully back Balzer’s plan. “I do not have any problems with this, and I support working with BGSU,” said commissioner Julie Farrar, one of three commissioners voting “no.” “If we can create some sort of educational park down there, maybe it would spark some interest to help get young people downtown.”   

Commissioners and college representatives will continue discussing details about a possible partnership. Among the topics of discussion: How to clean up the property, home to a contaminated wave pool and many other health hazards.  

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