Annual revenues from the Lake Erie plate generated $968,7000 in 1996. Revenues fell to $216,885 by 2012, said Rian Sallee, environmental specialist and grants coordinator at the agency. Sales have steadily fallen about 5 percent to 10 percent a year, she said.
It’s not that Ohioans don’t love the lake. Concern over the health of Lake Erie has generated a big response, particularly since the huge harmful algal bloom of 2011 generated a layer of green slime over much of the lake’s western surface.
It’s just that motorists who want a more personal message than the standard Ohio plate have many more special plates to choose from.
The Lake Erie license plate came out in 1993 and is considered the first “special interest” plate, said Lindsey Bohrer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The Lake Erie plate’s only competition came from a few collegiate and military plates, she said.
These days, the Lake Erie plate must compete against 152 specialty plates, including 77 other special-interest plates. There are also 29 collegiate plates, 38 military plates and seven professional sports plates.
There are specialty plates not just for Vietnam and Persian Gulf veterans, as you might expect, but also for warriors who served in Panama and Grenada, the Carribbean Island the U.S. invaded in 1993. Cavaliers, Browns and Indians fans all have their own sports plates.
Do you like bald eagles? Do you believe people should “choose life”? Are you on amateur radio? Are you a Freemason? Do you like Perry’s Monument? Do you support the troops, or do you think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame really rocks?There are plates for all those causes, and many more.
State law requires minimum annual sales of 500 for a special plate to be kept available.
The Lake Erie Commission, hoping to spark renewed interest in its plate, issued a new design for 2013. The “old school” plate keeps the image of a lighthouse, but a new design sports a life preserver with with a bird and a bit of water inside.