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SANDUSKY, OHIO – CALL TO ACTION: Waterfront Public Land At Risk

February 8, 2010

Watch Video About Yacht Club and Save Our Shoreline Parks


The following article was written by Dr. Skip Oliver and Tim Schwanger of Save Our Shoreline Parks. In an effort to support the public’s right to the waterfront, please use the information at the end of this article to contact the necessary authorities on this immediate issue.

Dr. Skip Oliver, former Commodore of the Sandusky Sailing Club. photo: The Erie Wire

A little known component of the recent agreement between the city of Sandusky and the Sandusky Yacht Club would transfer control of the city’s remaining water rights in the Surf’s Up basin to the Yacht Club. This would not be in the interests of the community, and would be contrary to both local and state regulations and laws. We call upon the new Sandusky city commission, as well as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Corps of Engineers to reject this proposal. The Yacht Club plans to dock an additional 21 large vessels (each up to 60 feet long) in the area just to the west of the Meigs Street pier and north of Surf’s Up. This area is now owned by the state of Ohio and leased to the city.

Tim Schwanger is an active volunteer in the Erie County community. Here he is pictured picking tomatoes for the Erie Fresh Edible Gardens Program

Tim Schwanger is an active volunteer in the Erie County community. He is pictured here, harvesting tomatoes for the Erie Fresh Edible Gardens Program. photo: The Erie Wire

One Tall Ship skipper has testified his craft will no longer be able to use the Meigs Street pier if the SYC dock expansion plan is implemented. Similarly, when the Tall Ships are once again on the Great Lakes next summer, we may be faced with the prospect that Sandusky will have little or no room to dock them. An important part of our nautical heritage is being endangered by the city-SYC deal.

Furthermore, a score of 60-foot vessels in the Surf’s Up basin will radically alter the view from the public park at that location. Most boats of that size are fully two stories high, and many are three stories. There can be little doubt they will obstruct the public’s view of Sandusky Bay.

In the past, the city recognized this problem and addressed it clearly. In April 2000 the Yacht Club was informed that, “It is the desire of the Sandusky City Commission to prohibit any type of boat dock, floating or otherwise, along the westerly side of the Meigs Street pier and on the northerly portion of the wave action pool property.”

There are other troubling aspects of the Yacht Club proposal as well. It runs contrary to both the Sandusky city code (Section 553.35), as well as state regulations designed to protect public shoreline areas from commercial encroachment. SYC may be able to make as much as $150,000 per year by renting out these new docks, but what will the people of Sandusky get?

But a win-win solution is available. Battery Park Marina has a number of docks not currently being rented.

It would not be difficult for Battery Park to sublease to the Yacht club part of its basin area — perhaps the east side of the Meigs Street pier. Minor adjustments to the dock plan could be made to accommodate large pleasure craft. At a stroke, the Yacht Club would get its new docks, Battery Park Marina would have all (or nearly all) of its docks rented, and the citizens of Sandusky and Ohio would retain their shoreline property rights. The point is that with a little imaginative thinking, everyone can come out ahead without sacrificing our waterfront recreation resources.

This community values the Sandusky Yacht Club. It is an integral part of our nautical heritage. But the give-away of the community’s Surf’s Up water rights is just not a good idea. Although the Yacht Club claimed in its November newsletter that the deal is “done,” we beg to differ.

Please contact the Sandusky City commission (419-627-5850), the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Office of Coastal Management (419-626-7982), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (716-879-4474) to register your comments. We ask you to join us in politely insisting that the Yacht Club’s dock expansion plan be scrapped. Request both full public hearings and environmental impact reviews.

Sandusky’s city shoreline is already nearly all in private hands. We have an obligation to protect what little remains.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Toby permalink
    February 9, 2010 5:03 pm

    Use of land and space is one of my biggest interests and concerns and it frustrates me how a group like the Sandusky Yacht Club can bully around the city to get what they want. I understand that communities need to be business friendly to some extent, otherwise you just scare everything away…but never at the expense of throwing away public land that cant be reclaimed. I dont see why there even needs to be some sort of compromise. As the article says, Sanduskys waterfront is already practically all privately owned. Thats troubling enough already. According to a recent survey i conducted amongst myself …and myself……at least 80% of these members dont even live in Sandusky Proper therefore the condition of the city doesnt effect their lives at all. With that said, I dont understand why it should be of utmost concern to bend over backwards for the Yacht Club, as if this city is doomed if they arent happy.

    The focus of a local government absolutely needs to be on retaining business in town so we dont lose jobs. Jobs are the number one concern of people in the area. However, when the city fails to have any kind of true vision or plan for itself, it throws caution to the wind and gives businesses free reign to do as they please, because the city is just happy somebodies interested in doing SOMETHING, no matter how detrimental to the cities future that might actually be. Businesses arent required to board up windows, keep things in good condition, etc. It never demands that they do anything thats in the best interest of the community at large. So when it comes to the Yacht Club, I feel like the city sees the club as one of the only major taxpayers downtown, and they feel like its a major factor in bringing people downtown to patronize the restaraunts and what not. Thats all right and correct, but when theyre allowed to dominate and claim public land, you hurt the community. You take away one more of the last places they had to go fishing, to sightsee, to enjoy any kind of public recreation in general, within a rational distance of where they live. Some will dismiss such needs as not relevant in comparison to keeping tax dollars and jobs in the town, but in the grand scheme of things, the Yacht Clubs contribution to the community is minimal if the only thing they contribute is some tax money.

    Im rambling, because im not a good writer, so I guess to conclude with a thought… Why do we care so much about what an elite exclusive group, that puts up a large brick wall and security gate to the streetfront, wants?

  2. Tim Schwanger permalink
    March 4, 2010 2:09 pm

    Thanks for running this Erie Wire.

    The SYC has devised a new plan which would install 30′ docks north of the Sandusky Bay Pavilion vs the original 70′ docks. We are not in support of this new plan. The water rights belong to the residents of Sandusky and the State of Ohio under Ohio’s Public Trust Doctrine. This is not an “anti” Sandusky Yacht Club movement. In 2000, the City and SYC agreed not to place additional docks of any size north of the Sandusky Bay Pavilion. The current City Commission and SYC Board of Directors need to stand by the 2000 agreement.

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  1. SANDUSKY, OH: SOSP | Sandusky Bay Pavilion is Public Property « The Erie Wire

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