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Rustbelter

Small Town & City Decline in Ohio

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This thread is a take-off of Htsguy's post in another thread. Thought it would make for an interesting topic since I'm originally from one of those declining small urban centers and I suspect others on here are as well.

 

Following up on your last post, something I find very dispiriting is what is happening (or has been happening for the past 2-3 decades) to Ohio's (and other Midwestern states) small urban centers (cities like Elyria, Painsville, Ravenna, Sandusky, Stubenville, Warren....just to name a few).

 

While we tend to focus on the urban ills of the three C's and as well as Dayton and Toledo, the suburbanization of the state the last 25-30 years (much more damaging in my opinion than the initial phases right after the war) as well as the economic down turns of the early 80's, 90's and of course the most recent devastation to the economy, have seemed to have a more profound effect on these smaller towns than major Ohio cities.  While they try and try, they have less resources to battle the ill effects of negative economic conditions and population shifts than the larger cities (which clearly have their own struggles but are in a better position for a whole host of reasons including old and strong institutions).

 

Driving through these towns and listening to residents talk about them is down right depressing.  We debate "brain drain" in regards to Ohio's larger cities but in these towns it is a fact.  The best and the brightest have no reason to stay (whether due to job opportunities, educational opportunities for them or there children, attractive housing or just "things to do") and they flock to the 3 C's or even further away (the "glistening" cities on the coasts or Chicago).

 

It is interesting that this seems to be more of an Ohio-Midwest problem, at least when compared to small cities (although not all) in states like New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvia.  Their mid size towns seem more intact and inviting.  Don't know if this is because there never was a serious decline in the first instance or whether it happen so long ago (for example the devastation of Mass. mill towns after the collapse of the textile industry in that state) that they have found the solution and have slowly recovered.  Hopefully, if this is the case maybe there is hope for these small Ohio towns.  Unfortunately I don't know if I will see it in my life time.

 

 

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Small Industrial Cities.

 

From what I saw in the New England/Mid Atlantic area I was pretty suprised on how good these small factory towns looked.  Places like Waterbury, Norwich, Lowell, Portland (tho Portland is more of a port), Holyoke, Troy, and even Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

 

These places should have been as dreary as Springfield or Lima, but seemed in better shape.  I think the lack of suburban srpawl might have something to do with this.

 

 

 

 

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I grew up in Ashtabula, a town that is typical of this decline. Towns like Ashtabula have lost the industries that once made them prosperous; and are left with few economic opportunities for people, a population that is poor and under-educated or elderly, and somewhat of an obsolete existence. Ashtabula in particular also suffers from rural sprawl and very poor planning that has allowed far too much unwarranted strip mall development at the expense of the downtown core. What you have left is a town full empty strip malls and a dead core, which has become a dump full of eyesores. There is really no reason that any young, educated person would want to live there. Quite a depressing situation indeed. One positive is that Ashtabula's second downtown located in the Harbor District has attracted new businesses in recent years.

 

Not sure if this a Midwest or regional thing though. From what I have seen in my travels the South has by far the dumpiest small towns. Looking more regionally; I think Ohio, New York, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan have a mix of nice small towns and dumps.

 

One thing Michigan has done well that puts Ohio to shame is having Great Lakes towns that are nice and attract tourism. Just compare Traverse City, Saugatuck, Grand Haven, and Marqutte to Sandusky, Loraine, Ashtabula, or Conneaut.

 

PA I think has a ton of really cool small towns. I noticed many of these towns can be isolated due to the state's geography and don't sprawl that much. They just seem to function how they always have, even if their population is poorer than in the past. Many PA towns have great building stock as well.

 

Another state that has a lot of nice small towns and cities is Wisconsin. It seems like every small town I have been to there is well kept with a nice central business district (with way too many bars for its size).

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*Funny Rustbelter, I was typing my response regarding Ashtabula county before you posted yours. 

 

I think proximity to a large urban area has alot to do with the outcome of many of these towns as well as how reliant they were on manufacturing. 

 

It seems like small towns I go to in upstate NY and PA get more $$$ and visitors and people living from NY-city and Philly that help to keep them intact and somewhat "vibrant". 

 

I guess some of these places were never really built on manufacturing (but some were), as many in Ohio were.  I know Im always surprised by the lack of functional/upscale small towns around Cleveland (ones that have specialty shops, antique stores and bistros lining main street), so I dont know if this is also indicative of the decline of the larger manufacturing urban centers like Cleveland and Youngstown. 

Being from Ashtabula County where all of the commerce and money in the towns came from the one time abundance of well paying manufacturing jobs are now all gone.  The jobs that are there now are mainly low paying manufacturing in comparison.

 

Aside from that I dont understand some of the development patterns that have kept other states downtowns more intact than I have seen in Ohio.  I mean I have seen the argument about topography in PA, and that may have somthing to do with it there. 

I know even when they built a mall in Ashtabula County It was expected to be the death knell for most of the remaining downtown retail there, but then the mall also ended up dying, and now I dont even go back because it is just too depressing.   

 

     

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Growing up in Newark and Warren, this issue is dear to my heart.  Someone said years ago that in their small town (Wellington? Seville?), a dollar used to circulate many times before leaving.  These days, he said, that dollar might turn over once or twice before going to Cleveland.  I think being near a large metro hurts these places, unless they're right by the freeway a la Medina.

 

Some of it has to do with modern retail, which involves a smaller number of stores covering a larger area.  Combine this with ever-increasing highways and the question becomes: why put anything in Springfield when one store in Beavercreek is sufficient for multiple counties?

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I grew up and went to school in upstate NY, and I can tell you that the small towns there face the same problems that Htsguy presented for the midwest. Towns like Utica, Binghamton, Herkimer, Kingston, Gloversville/Johnstown, etc. are towns that were built on one particular industry (varies depending on the city), and as that industry moved to the south, or overseas, the towns have never truly recovered. There's still enough there that they continue existing, but there's always that sense that their best days are behind them.

 

Some of them have survived due to their proximity to vacation spots (Adirondacks, or the Finger Lakes), others might have a SUNY nearby that pumps money into their economies, but I wouldn't point to too many of them and say they're thriving or growing.

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Sandusky, while still economically depressed has managed to at least hang onto their downtown nexus of Water St. and Columbus Ave.  While it is considerably better than it used to be even 5 years ago (this is according to some of the boaters in our marina that have been there for 15-20 years) there is still a long way to go.  The one thing mentioned was the brain drain, and it is all to real there.  It is hard to see where a solution will come from, but as cheap as land is there I would imagine getting a fiber backbone into the city would be able to convince some tech companies to be created or move offices there.

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But In Sundusky's case I guess I dont understand with the draw of the lake and Cedar Point (which is a huge draw) why it isnt a beach town that people flock to, stay at and spend money/ shop etc. like most states have (like Saugatuck or Rehoboth) ..  I would think that place could be Sandusky. 

 

I was in Rehoboth Beach Delaware recently and it seems to be a mecca of summer vacationers, shopping and dining.  The people are mainly educated, yet no real industry there, but it is driving distance to affluent DC, as well as Baltimore and Philly.  Where is the Ohio version of this?  (I guess there are the Islands, but...)

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I think proximity to a large urban area has alot to do with the outcome of many of these towns as well as how reliant they were on manufacturing.

Perhaps. Many towns like Chagrin Falls or Vermillion have benefited by becoming commuter towns. Others like Lorain have become dumps.

 

In Ashtabula County the best town is Geneva, which may benefit from being closer to the jobs in Lake County. Geneva, along with Geneva-on-the-Lake, are the only areas in Ashtabula County that have improved during my lifetime. Although neither of these towns had industrial and shipping economies like Ashtabula and Conneaut.

 

It seems like small towns I go to in upstate NY and PA get more $$$ and visitors and people living from NY-city and Philly that help to keep them intact and somewhat "vibrant". 

 

This is certainly the case with some towns, but there also some ghetto towns around those cities for sure. Newburgh, NY for instance is horrible. There are also fine towns in NY and PA that are in the middle of nowhere.

 

I guess some of these places were never really built on manufacturing (but some were), as many in Ohio were.  I know Im always surprised by the lack of functional/upscale small towns around Cleveland (ones that have specialty shops, antique stores and bistros lining main street), so I dont know if this is also indicative of the decline of the larger manufacturing urban centers like Cleveland and Youngstown.

Well there are some, with Chagrin Falls and Hudson being the most notable I think. Unless you're talking about towns outside of the metro area; then I would tend to agree. Although Geneva-on-the-Lake certainly has its charms!

 

Actually one town that I always thought was under rated is Fairport Harbor. It's a nice town, but given its character and location you would think it should be more of a hot-spot. I suppose it's also probably considered a Cleveland suburb though.

 

Being from Ashtabula County where all of the commerce and money in the towns came from the one time abundance of well paying manufacturing jobs are now all gone.  The jobs that are there now are mainly low paying manufacturing in comparison.

 

Aside from that I dont understand some of the development patterns that have kept other states downtowns more intact than I have seen in Ohio.  I mean I have seen the argument about topography in PA, and that may have somthing to do with it there. 

I know even when they built a mall in Ashtabula County It was expected to be the death knell for most of the remaining downtown retail there, but then the mall also ended up dying, and now I dont even go back because it is just too depressing.   

 

Yes, the Mall was awful for Ashtabula. Back in the 80s Ashtabula actually had a decent downtown but now it's a ghost town.

 

Once the manufacturing left Ashtabula and Conneaut those towns really went downhill, and they did not do anything to try and reinvent themselves. I think Conneaut could actually be a nice tourist town in the mold of what you see in Michigan. It still has good bones and has one of the largest beaches on Lake Erie; although that would require a large influx of money and I don't know where that would come from.

 

One thing I noticed about many of the nicer small towns I have been to is that they don't sprawl much. This is certainly not the case in Ashtabula.

 

One very nice town in PA that is not too far away from NE Ohio is Warren, PA. I can't find any real reason why Warren should be so much nicer than what you find 50 miles to the west?

 

Maybe in some instances this just comes down to people in Ohio (or elsewhere) not valuing their older communities?

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Part of the explanation for the perceived health of the NE towns is that they are probably fifty years ahead of Ohio in the cycle of decline and rebirth. Industrial Massachusetts was in serious decline a hundred years and some places even earlier. The nadir of those places was the mid-20th century.

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if you want to know why ohio's smaller cities suffer you have to ask yourself -- was dublin better when it was a cornfield and avon when it was a bunch of greenhouses, or do you like them both better now? we all know the answer -- a resounding we like it better now! well, not uo'ers, but most people. and the state and local governments bend over backwards to promote that.

 

but its not just the state government's fault for being so pro-suburban, local governments do plenty of shortsighted stupidness too that hurt their cities in the long term.  rust mentioned ashtabula's malls as past mistakes. well lorain is still doing it! hey lets tear down old agnes martin's last plot of trees in all of lorain that she bequeathed to the city to keep it that way in perpetuity and let's build some big box shopping there. hell, old agnes is long dead and why bother with redeveloping the blighted old strip malls up the road?!! ugh.

 

oh well - i do have hope for sandusky. stagnant is better than stoopid.

 

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But In Sundusky's case I guess I dont understand with the draw of the lake and Cedar Point (which is a huge draw) why it isnt a beach town that people flock to, stay at and spend money/ shop etc. like most states have (like Saugatuck or Rehoboth) ..  I would think that place could be Sandusky. 

 

I was in Rehoboth Beach Delaware recently and it seems to be a mecca of summer vacationers, shopping and dining.  The people are mainly educated, yet no real industry there, but it is driving distance to affluent DC, as well as Baltimore and Philly.  Where is the Ohio version of this?  (I guess there are the Islands, but...)

 

I don't believe there is a single public beach in Sandusky, so that would be why.

 

This.  There are beaches, Cedar point beach obviously isn't public though.  And the sandbar is out in the bay, but only accessible to boaters.  All the other stretches of shoreline in Sandusky have industry or marinas it seems.

 

I think also because the Shoreline of Lake Erie is not as gradual there does not seem to be many good natural beaches.  And while industry has declined, there is still a good bit that is done right in many of these cities that are on the water. 

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if you want to know why ohio's smaller cities suffer you have to ask yourself -- was dublin better when it was a cornfield and avon when it was a bunch of greenhouses, or do you like them both better now? we all know the answer -- a resounding we like it better now! well, not uo'ers, but most people. and the state and local governments bend over backwards to promote that.

 

but its not just the state government's fault for being so pro-suburban, local governments do plenty of shortsighted stupidness too that hurt their cities in the long term.  rust mentioned ashtabula's malls as past mistakes. well lorain is still doing it! hey lets tear down old agnes martin's last plot of trees in all of lorain that she bequeathed to the city to keep it that way in perpetuity and let's build some big box shopping there. hell, old agnes is long dead and why bother with redeveloping the blighted old strip malls up the road?!! ugh.

 

oh well - i do have hope for sandusky. stagnant is better than stoopid.

 

 

I agree with this to a point. Virtually all of the Michigan cities mentioned in this thread have experienced heavy amounts of urban sprawl. Traverse City has completely changed over the past 20 years, losing all of their downtown department stores to a mall built on an old farm. Yet, TC still thrives. Even as the region sprawls rapidly, Traverse City is still vibrant and its downtown is a hot spot. The only resort/lakefront city in MI that hasn't experienced heavy sprawl is Saugatuck. Outside of that, all of the resort based towns on the lakes have sprawl and have managed to stay relevant. The only real exceptions I can think of are Muskegon and Benton Harbor but most of their issues are socioeconomic and aren't related to sprawl at all. Muskegon only got a mall a few years ago and that was well after everything had already left. It serves Grand Haven as much as it does Muskegon but GH is still prospering. Holland's mall is virtually empty (the big box strip centers are still thriving) while its downtown is completely filled. Port Huron has also suffered some but even their downtown is pretty lively compared to what you see in most of Ohio's lakefront cities.

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Small towns were already in a rather precarious situation in the first place by their very nature no? If your town is a one-trick pony that can't perform anymore, well, that's that. In any case, their loss *could* be big city Ohio's gain depending on how many are able to move to one of the Cs. Of course, the young people who are mobile and able to move there are probably also able to move to the coasts. I think it also pays to remember that a lot of small towns were ho-hum to begin with. Was Bucyrus ever a beautiful great place to be even at its peak? It pays to remember that when many of these small towns were doing better that they were still derided as being "podunk" with small town folk hopping onto the trains to a bigger city for more opportunities.

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I think there's something to your first point, that small towns are inherently limited.  But they used to be a lot more important, and nicer, than they are now.  I don't think they have a bright future.  The world increasingly revolves around education, and educated people seem to prefer larger metros.  I think partisan politics plays a role in this.

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327, I would like to hear you expand upon your point regarding how partisan politics plays a role in how educated seem to prefer larger metros.  I will say that my observations are that there are far greater percentage of well-educated liberals in larger cities than is small towns.  If birds of a feather do, indeed, seem to stick together than I can see your point. 

 

The same could also be said for people who are on the opposite end of the political spectrum, as well.  Perhaps, if someone is an outdoors-ey type and values hunting and fishing they are probably more likely to settle in an area where hunting land is plentiful and fishing spots are also numerous.  Those same people are likely to also have strong opinions regarding the Second Amendment and will vote accordingly.  Thus continues the deepening "conservative-ization" of rural areas in the mid-west.  These same people also claim to have strong opinions about religion but are not likely to attend a house of worship on any given Sunday.  They take comfort in seeing all kinds of Christian Churches around and would flip out if a mosque were to built in their community.

 

Granted, one could view these observations as rash generalizations but they are things I have noticed after having been born and raised in a small town in South-Central Lower Michigan.  I know these people and even call some of them friends (just not the kind of friends with whom I talk about politics).  I have also spent periods of my life living in large cities (Detroit area and in the City of Chicago) and the differences in the attitudes of people is stark when compared to small town folks.  I cannot pass judgement as to which philosophy is better.  I find that big city folks are just closed-minded about different things than small town people.  Most of it comes from a lack of understanding on both parts.

 

At the end of the day, I can foresee smaller towns becoming "dumber" as a result of brain drain as larger corporations will continue to be based in cities and their suburbs.  There are exceptions like little towns with mid-sized insurance companies or jelly makers or basket companies but those towns will be the exceptions.  Small towns within a 45 min drive to a larger city are also less likely to go downhill.  At least in the case of Ohio, with the exception of the SE corner of the state, much of the state is withing a 45 min. drive of a larger city.  Shifting demographics can be a fascinating study!

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Traverse City is still vibrant and its downtown is a hot spot. The only resort/lakefront city in MI that hasn't experienced heavy sprawl is Saugatuck. Outside of that, all of the resort based towns on the lakes have sprawl and have managed to stay relevant. The only real exceptions I can think of are Muskegon and Benton Harbor but most of their issues are socioeconomic and aren't related to sprawl at all.

 

This is the key thing to remember. All of these small Michigan towns on the lakes are transitioning into tourist meccas, including some formerly ghetto ones like Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie. Even ghetto Muskegon is showing early signs of this transition (Benton Harbor will be the last one to change, but hey, they still manage to maintain an outstanding beach). Escanaba also has a long road ahead, but you can see the political willpower there.

 

The shocking thing about Muskegon, which is basically Flint or Saginaw on water, is that it still manages more tourism than Ohio's small towns. It has an insanely nice state beach, a great inner harbor, and lots of coastal access. Ohio sucks horrendously when it comes to the lakefront. It'd be laughable if it weren't such a tragedy. No area are the political differences between Michigan and Ohio more stark than in terms of Great Lakes protection and coastal access. There is a widespread respect for nature in Michigan you just don't see in Ohio. There is hardly any litter even at jampacked beaches like Grand Haven and Holland State Parks. Not only is the water cleaner, but so is everything else.

 

Also, when talking sprawl, Michigan mostly does it inland, leaving the coastal areas largely intact and open to the public. Michigan at least has the sense to sprawl in its lower value land and protect the shore. That's a huge difference from Ohio where the lakefront is covered in sprawl, seawalls, highways, parking lots, and heavy industry. I shudder to think what would happen to Sleeping Bear if it were in Ohio instead of Michigan. Ohio would probably build a casino that looks like a megaplex on top of it and a couple of Kroger stores surrounded by some Mullet McMansions (brick in front, vinyl in back). No state has done more damage to its coastline than Ohio. It's unbelievable how little public acccess there is left in the state, and the places Ohio does have are jokes compared to Michigan. Michigan has been relentless in promoting public access, keeping beaches clean, and limiting pollution. As a result, these old shipping ports are recovering to a degree seen nowhere in Ohio. They have found success in selling the Great Lakes narrative. Grand Haven, St. Joseph, South Haven, Traverse City, Manistee, Ludington, Holland, Mackinaw, Marquette, Port Austin, Sault Ste. Marie, and even now Port Huron are great models. They also are promoting biking in many of these areas as a leisurely alternative to driving. Michigan knows it has a sprawl problem. I don't think Ohio knows it has a sprawl problem.

 

Detroit is horribly ghetto and sprawled (but not much worse than Ohio's cities), Lansing is underwhelming, Flint is a wreck, but the rest of the state really is pretty outstanding. I'd argue no state has better coastal areas open to the public. Not even California comes close. Michigan knows its strengths and weaknesses in a way Ohioans do not. Overall, I found Lake Erie the most frustrating aspect of living in Ohio. Here is this resource that could be great, but instead it's being destroyed and political apathy is rampant in the statehouse. The only people who seem to care about what's happening to Lake Erie are Marcy Kaptur and a few other old power politicians in Toledo and Cleveland. Thank God for that, but the state overwhelmingly has turned its back on what is by far its greatest resource.

 

That is at least part of the reason areas like northern Ohio have gone to hell. Driving across the Canadian side of Lake Erie only makes these differences more obvious. There are some great public beaches and tourism towns up there. Even freaking Leamington has a much more active downtown than any place in Ohio. That's proof the problem isn't Lake Erie, it's Ohio. I've heard many Ohioans argue, "Look, Lake Erie isn't like Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, or Lake Superior. We don't have what Michigan has." True, but that's no reason to just throw in the towel. I do think there is still a chance to change in Ohio, but man is there a long way to go. I get pretty fired up about this stuff because I see Lake Erie as Ohio's biggest failure. The solutions are simple:

 

1. Reduce farm runoff.

2. Restore beaches that were wiped up by seawall and jetty construction (and the whole beach, not just a small stretch like at East Harbor).

3. Make the shoreline open to the public.

 

And for God's sake, the Lake Erie shoreline is not the place to build a freeway, coking plant, gated suburban subdivision, or a waste pool of toxic sludge. And open water dredge dumping in Maumee Bay should have stopped ten years ago. What other state is still doing that? It's making it a mud puddle, is killing off Northwest Ohio's famous walleye population, and is a huge reason toxic algae has gotten out of control on Lake Erie. It all starts in Maumee Bay. Until Ohioans get this, the state is going to continue to suck. You see this potential for tourism, especially in great little historic urban areas like Sandusky, but nothing is close to living up to its potential. There is no excuse Sandusky is not as successful as Port Huron, Michigan or Leamington, Ontario. It has better urban structure and is more historic. Leamington has the same damn geography as Ohio (flat, surrounded by farms), and the Thumb of Michigan is pretty similar too (flat, agricultural, though Lake Huron is obviously much cleaner than Lake Erie). The state has made way too many excuses for its lackluster lakefront. Yeah, Ohio lacks the hills, mountains, and sand dunes of Michigan, but it's not like you just go to any state and find a body of water as large as Lake Erie, particularly a freshwater body of water that large.

 

*Lake Erie could be a lot better. Ohio could be a lot better. I hope things change before the urban structure in Sandusky, Lorain, etc. is gone.

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The algae blooms on the lake aren't helping our coastal towns.

 

There is already evidence of reduced tourism. Thank God Toledo media is strongly covering these issues. I just don't know how much people in Columbus care about it. There is this big political disconnect between the Lake Erie counties and the rest of Ohio.

 

Port Huron has also suffered some but even their downtown is pretty lively compared to what you see in most of Ohio's lakefront cities.

 

Yep. About a decade ago, people in Port Huron realized their economy was crashing, but they had something pretty special with all the lake freighter traffic, great riverfront, Bluewater Bridge, and Lake Huron. Now it's a tourism town. That seemed like a real stretch a decade ago. Ludington and Manistee also have lots of recent development in their downtowns. Grand Haven, St. Joseph, and Traverse City were early to the game, but it's clear how much it has spread to other Michigan towns.

 

I think also because the Shoreline of Lake Erie is not as gradual there does not seem to be many good natural beaches.

 

But there used to be. Growing up in Northwest Ohio, I'd hear older people tell stories about what East Harbor used to be like, and also stories of Toledo Beach, Crane Creek, and a whole slew of other places that are gone now. Ohio mudded up the lake and built way too many seawalls that prevented littoral transport. Apparently East Harbor used to be a deep beach that was over two miles long! It was a real hotspot in northern Ohio, possibly on the level of Michigan's beaches. Only a fraction of East Harbor's beach exists today. It's still the best beach in Toledo's MSA, but Monroe's Sterling State Park is closer and pretty similar.

 

*In Toledo, I found you really had to go to Michigan to find a decent beach. Luna Pier and Sterling State Park were better than the nearby Ohio offerings. And Port Huron is an easy day trip from Toledo. You drive up there, walk along the riverfront, watch some freighters, hit the beach, have a nice meal or coffee in a restored building downtown, and then come back to Toledo. Surprisingly, you'd also meet other Toledoans up there who'd lament how nothing like that existed in Ohio. For a long time, I was unaware how many Toledoans did these day trips to Michigan to escape Ohio. I started doing the same. Even St. Joseph and Grand Haven are doable as a daytrip from Toledo. It sucks that Sandusky isn't a daytrip destination like this. It could pull a ton of people from Toledo, Cleveland, and even Columbus. It's true there isn't a public beach in the city limits, but it's near some beaches, and maybe a section of Cedar Point could be opened to the public?

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One thing Michigan has done well that puts Ohio to shame is having Great Lakes towns that are nice and attract tourism. Just compare Traverse City, Saugatuck, Grand Haven, and Marqutte to Sandusky, Loraine, Ashtabula, or Conneaut.

 

Michigan is proof positive that tourism is the best way to preserve small towns. No way would Grand Haven, Marquette, Saugatuck, and Traverse City be as nice as they are without all that tourism traffic. They've maintained their historic cores and are beautiful places. They also have excellent parks along the water. Grand Haven State Park is one of the best beaches in America, and you can walk to it from the downtown. The whole area is loaded with bars, restaurants, retail etc. Michigan has started to make pedestrian activity a priority because they've seen the financial rewards. Ohio needs to do the same.

 

Ohio has a lot of history that no one outside of Ohio knows about. That needs to change. While I've been ranting about places on Lake Erie, a lot of the state's inland cities have potential too. The solution to small town decline lies in tourism. Michigan, Maine, and Vermont get this. Ohio could join that club if it really wants to grow a pair and quit kowtowing to sprawl and environmental destruction interests.

 

In Ohio, it seems like people believe any development is good development. That's not the case at all. That's how Lake Erie ended up like it did. Ohio has some real potential in Port Clinton, Sandusky, Lorain, and Ashtabula. While many of the beaches have been wiped out, there is the possibility of rebuilding them with segmented offshore breakwalls, jetty removal, and a few other low-cost projects. I think they do this in Erie, PA, which I've heard has some great beaches (I've never been there, but Presque Isle looks like a big draw). Anyone know how the tourism industry is doing in Erie? What about Buffalo? I've been to the city, but never any of the beaches around there.

 

*With all of this stuff said, the Lake Erie towns/shipping ports are the easy places to save. Places inland have an even bigger battle. Michigan benefits from not only having endless Great Lakes coast, but also tons of natural inland lakes near other small towns in the state (I think this has prevented Jackson from turning into Lima). The inland towns in Ohio suffer the same brain drain as the towns on Lake Erie, and it's going to take some real creativity to save them. Grand Rapids, Ohio is a small inland town that has done a good job becoming a tourist town. It's a popular day trip for Toledoans and very intact. Without all of its tourism, I bet it'd be a wreck.

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327, I would like to hear you expand upon your point regarding how partisan politics plays a role in how educated seem to prefer larger metros.  I will say that my observations are that there are far greater percentage of well-educated liberals in larger cities than is small towns.  If birds of a feather do, indeed, seem to stick together than I can see your point. 

 

That's exactly it.  People prefer to interact with those who have similar outlooks.  I think your analysis is spot on.

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In Ohio, it seems like people believe any development is good development. That's not the case at all. That's how Lake Erie ended up like it did. Ohio has some real potential in Port Clinton, Sandusky, Lorain, and Ashtabula. While many of the beaches have been wiped out, there is the possibility of rebuilding them with segmented offshore breakwalls, jetty removal, and a few other low-cost projects. I think they do this in Erie, PA, which I've heard has some great beaches (I've never been there, but Presque Isle looks like a big draw). Anyone know how the tourism industry is doing in Erie? What about Buffalo? I've been to the city, but never any of the beaches around there.

 

C-Dawg, all your points are spot on. As someone who grew up in Metro Detroit, Ohio's wasted waterfront is my biggest disappointment since I moved to Cleveland. I grew up with marinas, parks and restaurants lining the water. The Detroit burb I grew up in probably has more marinas and waterfront restaurants than all of Cuyahoga County has. It truly baffles me. I've asked the question why its like this in Ohio and I've heard the same stuff about the lake being shallow, etc. but that excuse doesn't work with me. If Ohio focused on re-imagining its waterfront, I think you'd see a changed Northern Ohio. Its a shame such few people realize this and just make excuses as to why it can't happen.  When Geneva on the Lake is one of NEO's most attractive tourist friendly waterfront towns, you have serious issues. No offense to Geneva, but it shows how much Ohio lacks in that area.

 

I can't speak for Buffalo but I lived in Erie, PA for a few years and still go back there several times a year. Surprisingly, Erie attracts a good number of tourists. Its a in a strategic location as people stop their on their way to Niagara. Additionally, the area is very popular for Canadians. The bad part is most tourists don't end up downtown. They end up at Presque Isle/Waldameer, Upper Peach (shopping, Splash Lagoon, Family First Sports Park) or the wine country (also popular for fishing). Downtown Erie's waterfront (Dobbins Landing) has made some strides. There's a nice maritime museum, an observation tower and a new Sheraton with an attached convention center. There's a very large marina along with a mini golf course. Its very popular for fishing. There's been several mixed use proposals down there, but nothing concrete yet. They also built a library, bus terminal and a cruise ship terminal. There's a water taxi that connects Dobbins to Presque Isle and there's a biking trail that starts at Presque Isle then runs through Frontier Park, Liberty Park, downtown and finally connects to the wine country.

 

Unfortunately, downtown Erie is somewhat disconnected from the water. There's only one way there and it involves traversing a steep hill. That said, there are several marinas, beaches and parks that line the water in the Erie area and the state recently added a new state park nearby. Only one part of the waterfront is really wasted and that's the industrial area on Erie's east side.

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Columbus doesn't capitalize on it's downtown waterfront much at all despite already having great infrastructure lining it.

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I don't mean to denigrate waterfronts, because of course they're important to development and tourism, but there are limits to what they can accomplish in a Great Lakes climate.  The chief attraction of a town is still the town, no matter where it is. 

 

As C-Dawg said, there are several low-cost projects Ohio can undertake to rehab its beaches.  We should do those things.  And courts need to protect the public's right to waterfront access.  But to really make the most of it, Ohio communities would also need to abandon the planning logic that has already left the waterfront so underdeveloped and underutilized.  We have way too many private homes on the lake, which leads to way too many people getting shooed away from the water.

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^True. Look at land use around Port Clinton. It's obvious that some pretty great beaches were broken up or destroyed around the city by heavy marina, jetty, seawall, and home construction with no public access whatsoever. Northwest Ohio had a lot of large marshes along the lake fronted by nice barrier beaches. So much of that was wiped out (though at least there has been some replacement of the destroyed marshland between Toledo and Port Clinton thanks to Toledo political leaders). Ohio has a private access trailer court built right on what could be one of the best beaches in the state. This used to be a healthy beach that has been chopped up by jetties and marinas built way too close together. So the beach is basically useless to Ohio since it lacks continuity and no one can get to it. Michigan had the sense to build marinas upriver and keep its great beaches intact. The jetties and piers you see in Michigan are just around the shipping channel (which pleasure boats share) and they usually have historic lighthouses on them! Talk about a world of difference...

 

This is near Port Clinton:

portclintonbeach.jpg

 

Those small specks at the top of the screen are people. That's how deep this beach used to be!

portclintonbeachcu.jpg

 

So instead of a healthy lakefront like you find in Michigan towns, you have an isolated trailer court on a prime beach that is broken apart by too much development. This is why I say Ohio would have potential if it got serious about protecting Lake Erie.

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Columbus doesn't capitalize on it's downtown waterfront much at all despite already having great infrastructure lining it.

 

Even in cities with not much water like Columbus, a lot more could be done. There is a statewide ideology that doesn't value natural areas whether it's Lake Erie, a large river, small river, or creek. One thing I noticed about Ohio that is somewhat different from Michigan is that Ohio put tons of industry, warehouses, and highways directly along the edge of Lake Erie and various rivers in the state while Michigan put a lot of this stuff upriver. And the industry they do have on the lakes is much cooler than what Ohio has (see Marquettte and Sault Ste. Marie). Plus that old industry has some public access! Perhaps geographic differences at Michigan's ports allowed them to do this more, but it could also be by active choice. "Hey, let's keep the waterfront beautiful so people will want to come here."

 

Michigan totally gets it. Ohio does not.

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No public beach in Sandusky? Let's re-examine that. North of downtown Sandusky, there is a large sand spit about two miles long that is private access only. Yeah, we know Cedar Point's great beach is only for park visitors and people staying at the hotels, but why is this other great beach just for the people that live on it? This could be a big tourist attraction. It's also near Johnson's Island, which is a famous Civil War cemetery that no one knows how to get to since it's surrounded by private access roads. Why does Ohio let this happen to what should be a real tourism mecca?

 

This sand spit is huge!

sandspitwide.jpg

 

Yet no one can use it!

sandspitclose.jpg

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I can't speak for Buffalo but I lived in Erie, PA for a few years and still go back there several times a year. Surprisingly, Erie attracts a good number of tourists. Its a in a strategic location as people stop their on their way to Niagara. Additionally, the area is very popular for Canadians. The bad part is most tourists don't end up downtown. They end up at Presque Isle/Waldameer, Upper Peach (shopping, Splash Lagoon, Family First Sports Park) or the wine country (also popular for fishing). Downtown Erie's waterfront (Dobbins Landing) has made some strides. There's a nice maritime museum, an observation tower and a new Sheraton with an attached convention center. There's a very large marina along with a mini golf course. Its very popular for fishing. There's been several mixed use proposals down there, but nothing concrete yet. They also built a library, bus terminal and a cruise ship terminal. There's a water taxi that connects Dobbins to Presque Isle and there's a biking trail that starts at Presque Isle then runs through Frontier Park, Liberty Park, downtown and finally connects to the wine country.

 

Unfortunately, downtown Erie is somewhat disconnected from the water. There's only one way there and it involves traversing a steep hill. That said, there are several marinas, beaches and parks that line the water in the Erie area and the state recently added a new state park nearby. Only one part of the waterfront is really wasted and that's the industrial area on Erie's east side.

 

I suspected Erie, PA was successfully transitioning into tourism. They must protect public access and develop their waterfront in a smart way. I think Ohio has a model here.

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I don't know if anyone here already posted this, but since this topic came up again I figured this was a good thread: The New York Times, starting yesterday, began a series of 5 articles about Elyria, sort of an economic profile of the town. Yesterday the focus was a struggling diner owner, today the mayor; no doubt this is being done due to Ohio's swing state status. (I wonder what the political consensus of the Elyrians will be at the end of the series?? Or at least what the NYT will deem it to be :roll:)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/us/this-land-elyria-mayor-dreams-of-better-days.html?_r=0

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^^^ But your right that is not a public beach, and actually, while it is geographically close to Sandusky it is about 30-45 mins away.  You have to go all the way around the bay to get there.  Now Marblehead, or whatever township is the jurisdiction there, could have set that the Marina that is there, Baypoint, maintain a public access portion but they didn't care.  Which is really what this thread is about.  Now there is a Giant Marina, like 800 slips, a Restaurant and Beach that is private, along with new SF housing that they are building just south of the Marina. 

 

I know all this because we have friends that have their boats over there, and we almost moved ours there.  Instead we are staying in Downtown Sandusky.  Which, as others have pointed out, has tremendous potential and is starting to capitalize somewhat on their tourist potential.  Friends that have docked DT for the past 20-25 year said that even 10 years ago you would not be able to recognize what has happened since.  There are a good number of restaurants that are opening.  And they actually have as many waterfront living options as Cleveland: 1.  Both converted warehouse space on that was on the water.

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To put the general Michigan vs. Ohio tourism in a bit of perspective, Michigan spends $27 million in tourism marketing every year (w/ an overall tourism budget at the state level of 32 mil). Ohio's total budget at the state level for tourism is . . .  wait for it . . . $5 million with about $3million for marketing.

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With all these things Ohio spends dramatically less money on, I can't help but wonder where it's all going.  What do we get instead of tourism ads?  Not transit, that's for sure.  [Looks at map on wall]  Ah, I see.  We keep building bypasses around small towns.

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.... There is a statewide ideology that doesn't value natural areas whether it's Lake Erie, a large river, small river, or creek. One thing I noticed about Ohio that is somewhat different from Michigan is that Ohio put tons of industry, warehouses, and highways directly along the edge of Lake Erie and various rivers in the state while Michigan put a lot of this stuff upriver. And the industry they do have on the lakes is much cooler than what Ohio has (see Marquettte and Sault Ste. Marie). Plus that old industry has some public access! Perhaps geographic differences at Michigan's ports allowed them to do this more, but it could also be by active choice. "Hey, let's keep the waterfront beautiful so people will want to come here."

 

Michigan totally gets it. Ohio does not.

Ohio State Parks were rated "number one in the nation" about a decade ago.  They are popular.  Those lodges we have are rather unique for a state park system.

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To put the general Michigan vs. Ohio tourism in a bit of perspective, Michigan spends $27 million in tourism marketing every year (w/ an overall tourism budget at the state level of 32 mil). Ohio's total budget at the state level for tourism is . . .  wait for it . . . $5 million with about $3million for marketing.

 

Ohio is doubling the annual tourism budget to $10 million.

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In a complicated way that will likely only realize about 8 million in spending, because the law is written such a way that another nasty recession would leave the state with zero dollars for tourism.

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regarding the waterfront resource/savior, among many other good things, lorain took a neighboring house and large property that was donated to the city and they tore it down and almost doubled the size of lakeview park, the main lakefront park. they also fixed up the landscaping, the fountain, rose garden and there is a new beach house. the beachfront itself was also redone --- it was very busy this past summer and it looked better than i have ever seen it.

 

the only real big transformative infrastructure project still to be done there is to move that damned old sewage plant off the lakefront and rebuild it on the river over by the steel plant, where any idiot could see it always belonged -- except of course the idiots who ran the town in the early 1960s when it was built. it will cost a fortune now, but it needs to be done.

 

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Lorain is really interesting to me. The mix of people is similar to East Toledo (Eastern European ghetto with a strong Latino element) and the structure somewhat reminds me of it too (though East Toledo might be more intact). I've only been to Lorain once (post-collapse), but I liked what I saw of Lakeview Park. There has been some beach replenishment and it's a great park. I think the city is starting to take steps to fix the waterfront. I went to Lakeview Park during a really brutal winter on Lake Erie (near-record snowfall that year and the lake froze over), and the ice hiking was awesome. I also met the hottest photographer I have ever seen. She was a cute blonde-haired, blue-eyed bombshell around 20. We really hit it off, and anyone who goes out in 15-degree weather gets respect from me. Nice girls in Lorain, for sure.

 

But I identified a few big problems that should be fixed to make it better for tourism:

 

1. The lighthouse needs public access and an intact walkway out to it! Ohio doesn't have many lighthouses, so the fact that half of them aren't open to the public is asinine. Obviously the state will never compete with Michigan when it comes to lakefront stuff, but Ohio does have a couple of its own style of lighthouses that aren't too common in other states. Lorain's harbor light is one of them (Toledo's Romanesque island lighthouse is another unique one with no access, though I think Toledo's Harbor Fest is raising funds to change that- boat charters or something). The Lorain lighthouse is classic Ohio style and similar to Fairport Harbor and Ashtabula. Are they open to the public? Ohio needs to do what Michigan did with its lighthouses. Michigan has by far the nation's largest collection of historic lighthouses, and almost every single one is open to the public. They're popular tourism draws. Lighthouse tours make great day trips and allow you to see a lot of waterfront in a short amount of time (It helps that Michigan has some 100-footers with jaw-dropping observation decks, but even shorter lighthouses can be great too- see South Haven, St. Joseph, or Manistee for examples).

 

2. There is too much industry directly on the lakefront instead of upriver. Looking back on this issue, I do think geography is playing a role. Ohio obviously has terrible lakefront development, but some of it was bound to happen since the state lacks deep water harbors and upriver areas that can handle shipping traffic. Only really Toledo was able to put a bunch of stuff upriver since the Maumee is such a big river compared to the other ones in Ohio. It's anywhere from 1000 feet to 3/4 of a mile wide in the city limits, and even had a natural deep draft shipping channel before it was filled in with farm runoff. Other cities like Cleveland, Lorain, etc. had no choice but to build artificial harbors. The Black River is extremely small and shallow. Ditto with the Portage, Cuyahoga, etc. So there might be some geographic reasons Ohio's cities have crap waterfronts. Still, no excuse for something like Cleveland's waterfront freeway, Port Clinton's beachfront trailer courts, Toledo's wholly private Point Place waterfront, or Lorain's wastewater treatment plant near the beach and lighthouse. Too much waterfront industry is not the main reason Ohio's waterfront sucks, it's just a piece of the pie. There have been way too many idiotic urban development choices along Lake Erie. I can't think of any other state that chopped up one of its best beaches and put a trailer court on it. I also can't think of any other state that completely privatized its sand spits like done around Sandusky. I can get Cedar Point since it's the best amusement park in the world, but I really wish that spit off of Marblehead was open to the public. It'd be fun to boat out there from downtown Sandusky.

 

*This thread proves that the urban planning issues plaguing Ohio's small cities and towns are exactly the same as the ones plaguing Ohio's big cities. The difference is small industrial cities lack economic diversity, which leads to even more pronounced brain drain. Michigan's small cities and towns on the lakes have some brain drain, but it varies quite a bit. There is less brain drain in Grand Haven, Holland, Traverse City, and Marquette. They're just big enough to be more "small city" than "small town." They also have some local businesses and startups founded by natives. So they're tourism towns, shipping ports, and also places with a lot of entrepreneurship. That seems like a good mix to me.

 

Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie, and Port Austin are probably the Michigan tourism towns dealing with the most brain drain (maybe throw Ludington and Manistee in there too). But I still think that Sandusky and Lorain's brain drain is more severe since they're noticeably more ghetto (with Sandusky obviously in better shape than Lorain). They're the deadly mix of Rust Belt, small town/city, and ghetto. Maybe I'm being too harsh on Sandusky though. My favorite coffee shop in the state of Ohio is located in downtown Sandusky and they really have been making great strides with their waterfront. I also sensed more civic pride/respect for the lake in Sandusky than I did in Toledo, Cleveland, or Lorain. I think people in Sandusky know their strengths and weaknesses, want to save their great abandoned buildings, and care about planning issues there. I also have met a lot of young Sanduskians who lament the terrible economy and brain drain of the city, but don't have (quite) the same negativity/cynicism of your average Toledoan or Clevelander. I know that's not saying a lot, but it's a start. Northern Ohio is negative as all hell, but not to the same degree everywhere. There is a lot of evidence that Sandusky could be pretty great if the economy ever recovers there. I like the level-headedness of the people there and it doesn't seem like they're clear-cutting anything. I saw a lot of nice commercial buildings right in the middle of residential neighborhoods. Maybe sprawl doesn't have the same pull around Sandusky that it does elsewhere in Ohio? It could very well become Ohio's first real tourism mecca. And I think they still have a functioning Amtrak station! I wish Columbus would throw more bones their way...

 

I guess what I'm saying is that Sandusky has more potential than Lorain even though they both have terrible economies. Sandusky looks more intact to me, and while certainly ghetto, not quite Toledo or Cleveland level ghetto. Lorain kind of feels like a ghetto in Toledo or Cleveland. I love the town, but the road to success is going to be a long one. There is a lot of demolition in Lorain and the people don't seem very fired up about it (I guess the poverty and job situation is a much bigger issue). It really does all come down to people. For a town to be saved, people have to want it to be saved. I've always questioned Ohioans desire to save themselves...from other Ohioans.

 

In a complicated way that will likely only realize about 8 million in spending, because the law is written such a way that another nasty recession would leave the state with zero dollars for tourism.

 

Not smart. The state's tourism marketing/advertising is already a joke. I don't expect Ohio to pull off Pure Michigan (no state can match that), but I at least expect Georgia, Louisiana, or friggin' Alabama. Ohioans really need to wake up and realize there are a few key ares with potential for tourism, and vote for whatever it takes to make it happen. The increased tax revenues and saved historic buildings make it more than worth it.

 

*Also, we need to be talking about Huron more. They're dealing with a lot of issues too and its downtown sucks. It's a pretty wealthy city, so no excuses. How come Ohio has those giant confined disposal facilities everywhere along the lake? How did Michigan avoid this? Not only is their water much cleaner (even where rivers dump into the lake like at Grand Haven and St. Joseph), but they also manage dredging much better.

 

**Just realized Michigan doesn't need all those confined disposal facilities since it's higher quality material not loaded with pollutants like in Ohio:

 

http://www.grandhaventribune.com/content/637k-slated-harbor-dredging-0

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Ohio State Parks were rated "number one in the nation" about a decade ago.  They are popular.  Those lodges we have are rather unique for a state park system.

 

If Ohio's state park system was so great, they wouldn't have shut down public beaches like Crane Creek! I've been to most of the state parks in Ohio and Michigan. There is no contest. Michigan has far and away the largest and best state park system in the country. And isn't Ohio thinking of fracking in state parks?

 

Ohio has some decent lodges (a few great ones). That's all that sets it apart from other states. And even those lodges aren't living up to their potential. Take Maumee Bay for example. It's a beautiful lodge that has been hailed the "crown jewel of Ohio's state park system." Still, it's always half empty! If Western Lake Erie wasn't such a toxic mess, people might actually go to Maumee Bay outside Toledo Harbor Fest.

 

State Parks can be great for tourism, but only if the natural areas can back up the man-made amenities. And what's really interesting is that Ohio failed to build a lodge at its best state park, Hocking Hills. The campground also sucks, but that's probably a topic for another thread. I can't think of any good towns near Hocking Hills. It is in the middle of nowhere. Maybe Logan? It seems like that town is failing to capitilize on the natural area around it. A lot of people go to Hocking Hills, but I rarely hear of anyone stopping in Logan other than to get gas. It should have a lot more tourism than it does. It's a very sleepy Appalachian town with a bad vibe.

 

Call me crazy, but Hocking Hills gets enough consistent tourists from Columbus that Logan should be a hotspot for inland types. Maybe an Appalachian version of Idaho Springs? The problem is Ohio doesn't do much to promote Hocking Hills despite the fact it's not only great by Ohio standards, but it'd be unique even in a lot of prettier states.

 

Shawnee State Park is another great place that doesn't produce enough tourism and spinoff business. Portsmouth is a freaking disaster...it's one of the most depressing places I've been to anywhere in America, and that's with all the stiff competition elsewhere in Ohio.

 

So yeah, these problems aren't limited to Lake Erie. You can take your northern Ohio Lake Erie ghetto or you can take your southern Ohio Appalachian ghetto. The bottom line is it all sucks (in a way native Ohioans can stomach, but not outsiders). Time is running out. These old empty buildings need to be rehabbed fast. A serious commitment to tourism is a way to get that done. No big companies are going to move to places like Portsmouth (no one will want to work there). The small businesses that tourism brings can save these kinds of places. I bet Idaho Springs would suck without all of its Denver tourism...

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While places like Toledo and Cleveland have been getting a lot of attention for their economic problems over the years, places like Lorain are now on the map too. This was a great article from the New York Times that I think ties into this thread:

 

Young Mothers Describe Marriage’s Fading Allure

 

By SABRINA TAVERNISE

Published: February 18, 2012

 

LORAIN, Ohio — Marriage has lost its luster in Lorain, Ohio.

 

Sixty-three percent of all births to women under 30 in Lorain County occur outside marriage, according to Child Trends, a research center in Washington. That figure has risen by more than two-thirds over the past two decades, and now surpasses the national figure of 53 percent.

 

The change has transformed life in Lorain, a ragged industrial town on Lake Erie. Churches perform fewer weddings. Applications for marriage licenses are down by a third. Just a tenth of the students at the local community college are married, but its campus has a bustling day care center.

 

The New York Times interviewed several dozen people in Lorain about marriage here. What follows are their stories.

 

Young parents spoke of an economy that was fundamentally different from in their parents’ time, and that required more than a high school education for fathers to be stable breadwinners. They talked of how little they trusted each other to be reliable mates, and of how the government safety net encourages poor parents to stay single.

 

...Joblessness and run-ins with the law are so prevalent among young men in Lorain that many women interviewed said they had given up on finding a suitable mate. Angel Ives, a nursing student at the community college, said she did not want to bring another man into her family after her daughter’s father, a groundskeeper for sports fields, was jailed on assault charges. Ms. Ives, 32, works in a nursing home while attending college, and said she was too tired to date. She jokes that her idea of a perfect suitor is someone who will come to her house to baby-sit while she naps.

 

CONTINUED ON NEW YORK TIMES SITE

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/us/young-mothers-describe-marriages-fading-allure.html

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Lorain is really interesting to me. The mix of people is similar to East Toledo (Eastern European ghetto with a strong Latino element) and the structure somewhat reminds me of it too (though East Toledo might be more intact). I've only been to Lorain once (post-collapse), but I liked what I saw of Lakeview Park. There has been some beach replenishment and it's a great park. I think the city is starting to take steps to fix the waterfront. I went to Lakeview Park during a really brutal winter on Lake Erie (near-record snowfall that year and the lake froze over), and the ice hiking was awesome. I also met the hottest photographer I have ever seen. She was a cute blonde-haired, blue-eyed bombshell around 20. We really hit it off, and anyone who goes out in 15-degree weather gets respect from me. Nice girls in Lorain, for sure.

 

But I identified a few big problems that should be fixed to make it better for tourism:

 

1. The lighthouse needs public access and an intact walkway out to it! Ohio doesn't have many lighthouses, so the fact that half of them aren't open to the public is asinine. Obviously the state will never compete with Michigan when it comes to lakefront stuff, but Ohio does have a couple of its own style of lighthouses that aren't too common in other states. Lorain's harbor light is one of them (Toledo's Romanesque island lighthouse is another unique one with no access, though I think Toledo's Harbor Fest is raising funds to change that- boat charters or something). The Lorain lighthouse is classic Ohio style and similar to Fairport Harbor and Ashtabula. Are they open to the public? Ohio needs to do what Michigan did with its lighthouses. Michigan has by far the nation's largest collection of historic lighthouses, and almost every single one is open to the public. They're popular tourism draws. Lighthouse tours make great day trips and allow you to see a lot of waterfront in a short amount of time (It helps that Michigan has some 100-footers with jaw-dropping observation decks, but even shorter lighthouses can be great too- see South Haven, St. Joseph, or Manistee for examples).

 

2. There is too much industry directly on the lakefront instead of upriver. Looking back on this issue, I do think geography is playing a role. Ohio obviously has terrible lakefront development, but some of it was bound to happen since the state lacks deep water harbors and upriver areas that can handle shipping traffic. Only really Toledo was able to put a bunch of stuff upriver since the Maumee is such a big river compared to the other ones in Ohio. It's anywhere from 1000 feet to 3/4 of a mile wide in the city limits, and even had a natural deep draft shipping channel before it was filled in with farm runoff. Other cities like Cleveland, Lorain, etc. had no choice but to build artificial harbors. The Black River is extremely small and shallow. Ditto with the Portage, Cuyahoga, etc. So there might be some geographic reasons Ohio's cities have crap waterfronts. Still, no excuse for something like Cleveland's waterfront freeway, Port Clinton's beachfront trailer courts, Toledo's wholly private Point Place waterfront, or Lorain's wastewater treatment plant near the beach and lighthouse. Too much waterfront industry is not the main reason Ohio's waterfront sucks, it's just a piece of the pie. There have been way too many idiotic urban development choices along Lake Erie. I can't think of any other state that chopped up one of its best beaches and put a trailer court on it. I also can't think of any other state that completely privatized its sand spits like done around Sandusky. I can get Cedar Point since it's the best amusement park in the world, but I really wish that spit off of Marblehead was open to the public. It'd be fun to boat out there from downtown Sandusky.

 

*This thread proves that the urban planning issues plaguing Ohio's small cities and towns are exactly the same as the ones plaguing Ohio's big cities. The difference is small industrial cities lack economic diversity, which leads to even more pronounced brain drain. Michigan's small cities and towns on the lakes have some brain drain, but it varies quite a bit. There is less brain drain in Grand Haven, Holland, Traverse City, and Marquette. They're just big enough to be more "small city" than "small town." They also have some local businesses and startups founded by natives. So they're tourism towns, shipping ports, and also places with a lot of entrepreneurship. That seems like a good mix to me.

 

Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie, and Port Austin are probably the Michigan tourism towns dealing with the most brain drain (maybe throw Ludington and Manistee in there too). But I still think that Sandusky and Lorain's brain drain is more severe since they're noticeably more ghetto (with Sandusky obviously in better shape than Lorain). They're the deadly mix of Rust Belt, small town/city, and ghetto. Maybe I'm being too harsh on Sandusky though. My favorite coffee shop in the state of Ohio is located in downtown Sandusky and they really have been making great strides with their waterfront. I also sensed more civic pride/respect for the lake in Sandusky than I did in Toledo, Cleveland, or Lorain. I think people in Sandusky know their strengths and weaknesses, want to save their great abandoned buildings, and care about planning issues there. I also have met a lot of young Sanduskians who lament the terrible economy and brain drain of the city, but don't have (quite) the same negativity/cynicism of your average Toledoan or Clevelander. I know that's not saying a lot, but it's a start. Northern Ohio is negative as all hell, but not to the same degree everywhere. There is a lot of evidence that Sandusky could be pretty great if the economy ever recovers there. I like the level-headedness of the people there and it doesn't seem like they're clear-cutting anything. I saw a lot of nice commercial buildings right in the middle of residential neighborhoods. Maybe sprawl doesn't have the same pull around Sandusky that it does elsewhere in Ohio? It could very well become Ohio's first real tourism mecca. And I think they still have a functioning Amtrak station! I wish Columbus would throw more bones their way...

 

I guess what I'm saying is that Sandusky has more potential than Lorain even though they both have terrible economies. Sandusky looks more intact to me, and while certainly ghetto, not quite Toledo or Cleveland level ghetto. Lorain kind of feels like a ghetto in Toledo or Cleveland. I love the town, but the road to success is going to be a long one. There is a lot of demolition in Lorain and the people don't seem very fired up about it (I guess the poverty and job situation is a much bigger issue). It really does all come down to people. For a town to be saved, people have to want it to be saved. I've always questioned Ohioans desire to save themselves...from other Ohioans.

 

In a complicated way that will likely only realize about 8 million in spending, because the law is written such a way that another nasty recession would leave the state with zero dollars for tourism.

 

Not smart. The state's tourism marketing/advertising is already a joke. I don't expect Ohio to pull off Pure Michigan (no state can match that), but I at least expect Georgia, Louisiana, or friggin' Alabama. Ohioans really need to wake up and realize there are a few key ares with potential for tourism, and vote for whatever it takes to make it happen. The increased tax revenues and saved historic buildings make it more than worth it.

 

*Also, we need to be talking about Huron more. They're dealing with a lot of issues too and its downtown sucks. It's a pretty wealthy city, so no excuses. How come Ohio has those giant confined disposal facilities everywhere along the lake? How did Michigan avoid this? Not only is their water much cleaner (even where rivers dump into the lake like at Grand Haven and St. Joseph), but they also manage dredging much better.

 

**Just realized Michigan doesn't need all those confined disposal facilities since it's higher quality material not loaded with pollutants like in Ohio:

 

http://www.grandhaventribune.com/content/637k-slated-harbor-dredging-0

 

That strip of sand in Sandusky is accessible by boat, and only by boat.  I'm not sure of the legal property status, but you can't access it by foot.  So while the spit of land further north is private, that section is widely used throughout the summer months by boaters in Sandusky Harbor.  Sometimes the beach and area around it is packed with boats and people.  Really can be a fun place to go to.  Also, for anyone who does decide to boat over there.  The sand is constantly shifting and you will go from 5 ft to 2 ft to 4 ft of water really quickly!!  So be careful, from someone who has beached a boat there.

 

As an example of a Lighthouse that has public access, the Marblehead Lighthouse always has visitors and is pretty cool to visit.  Good views of Cedar Point and Kelley's Island too. 

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One thing Michigan has done well that puts Ohio to shame is having Great Lakes towns that are nice and attract tourism. Just compare Traverse City, Saugatuck, Grand Haven, and Marqutte to Sandusky, Loraine, Ashtabula, or Conneaut.

 

I've spent a lot of time in those Michigan waterfront towns you mentioned and they all benefit from being along the West side of the state and attract the big money investments from Chicago which drives up the property values.  To some extent this is also true in Southern Wisconsin, just an hour or two from Chicago.  The eastern portion of Michigan is nothing like the west side of the state in terms of upscale resort towns. 

 

Getting away from the Great Lakes shores and moving more inland, I have friends & family who still have large grain farms on the west side of Ohio.  Corn, soybeans and wheat prices have been steadily climbing and farming is more profitable now than ever before.  So many families benefitting from this.  It doesn't do much for the smaller urban cities like Lima or Dayton, but there is a new source of wealth being generated in the rural areas without a doubt.

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I've spent a lot of time in those Michigan waterfront towns you mentioned and they all benefit from being along the West side of the state and attract the big money investments from Chicago which drives up the property values.  To some extent this is also true in Southern Wisconsin, just an hour or two from Chicago.  The eastern portion of Michigan is nothing like the west side of the state in terms of upscale resort towns.

 

Generally speaking, this is true, but you can see the growing tourism industry in Port Huron and Port Austin. They're pulling in Detroiters and Canadians. There are a couple of others on Lake Huron with tourism too...Tawas area? Cheboygan?

 

Alpena is the one that's pretty bad. It's very Ohio-like and feels like Sandusky or Lorain. They did not do a good job with their waterfront in Alpena. Overall, I agree Chicago money is helping western Michigan, especially St. Joseph and Saugatuck. "Snobatuck" has been a playground for wealthy Chicagoans for quite some time.

 

Towns like Grand Haven, Holland, and Traverse City have much bigger pull from a wide variety of areas (most of the Midwest and Northeast, Canada, and even Europe now). Ludington and Manistee are still mainly Michiganians.

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Getting away from the Great Lakes shores and moving more inland, I have friends & family who still have large grain farms on the west side of Ohio.  Corn, soybeans and wheat prices have been steadily climbing and farming is more profitable now than ever before.  So many families benefitting from this.  It doesn't do much for the smaller urban cities like Lima or Dayton, but there is a new source of wealth being generated in the rural areas without a doubt.

 

Grand Rapids, Ohio is an example of rural inland town doing things right. Still, places like Defiance, Fostoria, Fremont, and Napoleon aren't exactly doing so hot...farming is getting a lot more profitable, so I do think some of the Northwest Ohio small towns could stabilize. And to be honest, Bryan never really hit hard times. That has been rated one of America's best small towns numerous times. It has been a long time since I've been to Bryan, but I think they had Amtrak and a pretty intact downtown.

 

Lima is screwed. Findlay is somehow remarkably stable (must be Cooper Tire and Marathon Oil). I'm not sure about Tiffin. It might be Ohio's prettiest town, but that courthouse thing exposes some pretty deep problems.

 

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This year at the farm sucked pretty bad because it was so dry. But prices rose since much of the country was in the same boat. The corn didn't mature properly because it didn't rain at all from May 15-June 15th and it was ridiculously hot.

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cdawg - ha yeah sandusky is more intact than lorain and next to cedar point and the islands, so it will always have more tourism potential than lorain. however, lorain has made remarkable leaps and bounds with its waterfront in recent years. the big one is they cleared away almost all the industry and industrial remnants from the waterside. specifically, they cleared out the property behind city hall that faces the lighthouse and it is prime waterfront property. this used to have hullets, ore ship unloaders and ore slag. this is where the city always wanted a casino, but it will likely be some kind of retail/residential/marina someday. a gigantic old power plant between there and lakeview park was just torn down and cleared and that property has great potential as well. and then there is the man-made black river dredging property peninsula on the near eastside and the beaches along the far westside that are potentially interesting as the former ford auto plant is now long gone and out of the way.

 

several other recent remarkable transformations were built along the black riverfront near the lake. the most obvious is the black river landing park downtown where the international festival is now held and the jet express is there and there are tours of the lighthouse in the summer. this used to be mounds of slag and ore, so its a fantastic change -- great views too! the other waterside improvements include a new nearby boat launch in a historic landing, it was the northernmost end of the underground railroad. hmm, what else? most people probably know by now about george steinbrenner's former amship shipbuilding yards, which were redeveloped into waterfront apts by spitzer. oh and last but not least is the county metropark's black river reservation trails, which connects lorain to elyria along the river. the final trail section goes around across from the steel plant, so its a very cool industrial view in that section and i encourage everyone to bring a bike and check it out! it opened in 2008. there are also trams available for those who cannot ride bikes or walk that far:

http://metroparks.cc/black_river_reservation.php

 

the point here being that its not like all ohio cities are sitting still on the lakefront issue. lorain may be as broke as a city can be, but its notable that they spend their last dime on waterfront improvements or rangle them out of the county or by other means. lorain does know where the future lies and they are well aware of past mistakes in so often turning their back to lake erie tourism and amenities.

 

ps -- funny enough i lived in east toledo too, so yeah there is some similarity between these two places, but many more differences.

 

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This year at the farm sucked pretty bad because it was so dry. But prices rose since much of the country was in the same boat. The corn didn't mature properly because it didn't rain at all from May 15-June 15th and it was ridiculously hot.

 

I spoke too soon! Just found out today that our soybeans actually made up for our crappy corn down at the farm. We actually ended up doing better overall than last year. I never would have thought that on July 4th.

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I don't know if anyone here already posted this, but since this topic came up again I figured this was a good thread: The New York Times, starting yesterday, began a series of 5 articles about Elyria, sort of an economic profile of the town. Yesterday the focus was a struggling diner owner, today the mayor; no doubt this is being done due to Ohio's swing state status. (I wonder what the political consensus of the Elyrians will be at the end of the series?? Or at least what the NYT will deem it to be :roll:)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/us/this-land-elyria-mayor-dreams-of-better-days.html?_r=0

 

Finally got around to reading this. The New York Times has really been doing some great coverage of Ohio. I wonder what's up with all of the interest?

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the point here being that its not like all ohio cities are sitting still on the lakefront issue. lorain may be as broke as a city can be, but its notable that they spend their last dime on waterfront improvements or rangle them out of the county or by other means. lorain does know where the future lies and they are well aware of past mistakes in so often turning their back to lake erie tourism and amenities.

 

You're making some strong arguments for Lorain. It sounds like the city is serious about trying to lure in some tourists. I think if that lighthouse gets a walkable pier connected to it, it will be a very attractive lakefront. It's one of the best lighthouses of its style in the country. There aren't many like it. I think a lighthouse tour of northern Ohio could include the following:

 

1. Toledo Harbor Light (by charter- it's similar to Port Austin's light)

2. Marblehead Lighthouse (Ohio's best lighthouse and a major tourist draw- packed in the summer, and even in the dead of winter people go to see the Lake Erie ice). Marblehead and Lakeside seem like they're already on the right track.

3. Lorain Harbor Light (walk out along a new pier, get great 360-degree views of Lake Erie).

4. Old Fairport Harbor (classic old lighthouse not many people in Ohio know about)

5. New Fairport Harbor (connected to the state's largest beach open to the public, Headlands State Park)

6. Ashtabula (small, but cute and by a beach)

 

So Ohio has half a dozen historic lighthouses with potential for tourism (Marblehead already realized). Lorain actually will have the best setup since the beach and downtown are very close to the lighthouse. You could walk between all three. I envision that downtown with lots of cute storefronts and nice restaurants/bars. Maybe a less debauched Put-in-Bay with a swimming beach?

 

*I think South Bass Island also has a nice light, but everyone is too drunk to remember it's there.

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