New spark for Sandusky's Lions Park

SANDUSKY Lions Park has lost its roar. Just a generation ago, the 7-acre tract was ki
May 24, 2010



Lions Park has lost its roar.

Just a generation ago, the 7-acre tract was king of the city's proverbial jungle. It boasted Sandusky's only public beach, oft-used tennis and basketball courts, prime fishing and one of the best views on Lake Erie.

But Lions Park has grown long in the tooth.

"It's tired looking," city commissioner Dave Waddington said. "It's just worn out. ... It's still got a $1 million view, but it's like it got left in the 60s."

Waddington has made it his mission to revive the park. Some of the restorations will be easy: The paint-chipped playground equipment, faded tennis and shuffleboard courts, and some of the worn picnic tables don't need much work.

"A lot of it could just use some paint," Waddington said.

But restoring the public beach might be more challenging.

At some point several decades ago -- officials haven't determined a specific date -- the city dumped truckloads of concrete rubble onto the beach to prevent erosion.

A 2006 study, conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Lions Park was losing one foot of shoreline per year, and the rubble provided protection against that.

But Bob Haag, a local geologist and brownfields consultant, has done research which concludes erosion isn't occurring at all. Instead, the lake's water level is rising, which only makes it look like erosion is occurring. Furthermore, the water level, on average, has only risen about one-third of a foot per year since the 1930s, not one foot per year, his research shows.

Since erosion isn't occurring, the concrete rubble isn't serving a purpose, except for creating an eyesore and blocking the beach, he said.

Haag said it would be "relatively inexpensive" to remove the rubble, and then the city could re-use it as fill for other projects like the Chesapeake Walkway to save money.

Carrie Handy, the city's chief planner, said the city could use Community Block Development Grant funds to clean up the beach.

According to the Housing and Urban Development's government Web site, CDBG funds are specifically designated for areas of a low- to moderate-income housing, and Waddington said the Lions Park area would qualify.

Since Waddington's research just began several months ago, he hasn't determined how much it would cost to remove that rubble and make the necessary renovations to revive the park, but said the city needs a public beach and it will come up with the money.

"Here we live on the lake, with Cedar Point right here, and there's no place to swim. It's insanity," he said. "I just want a simple beach where people can swim. No frills. It's going to take a Herculean effort, but we'll get it done."