Around the Great Lakes

Stories about Great Lakes coastal communities working towards more resilient shorelines.

Community Resilience Action Network of Erie (CRANE), Pennsylvania

CRANE was started in the City of Erie, Pennsylvania to increase literacy surrounding climate issues. Erie County includes 76 miles of shoreline, has experienced increasing vulnerabilities related to extreme weather events, and was identified as one of the nation’s top 10 fastest-warming cities. Their mission is to “Engage the community using education and collaboration to identify climate vulnerabilities and implement proactive responses that foster a vibrant and resilient region”. In 2018 they developed a 5-year climate action strategic plan to “make the Erie community more educated, resilient, and vibrant”.

This network is an alliance between multiple organizations coming together to support and create a climate-conscious community. It includes representatives from the City of Erie, the Erie County Department of Planning and Community Development, the Green Building Alliance, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the Regional Science Consortium. Read more about CRANE.


Historic Building Relocation from Bluff in Manistee, MI

Manistee, MI. The Orchard Beach State Park Pavilion. Photo Credit: MI DNR

In Manistee, MI in Orchard Beach State Park, a 400-ton, 80-year-old, historic, limestone pavilion will be moved inland to protect it from an eroding bluff line along Lake Michigan. In its current position, the pavilion sits about 50 feet from the edge of the bluff. If not moved, it would crumble into the lake. “Higher-than-average erosion in 2019, including a mudslide, coupled with increasingly high Lake Michigan water levels spurred Barry and the Department of Natural Resources into action to save the pavilion”.

The total cost for this project will amount to about $1.5 million dollars. Funds for the relocation of the pavilion will come from a combination of capital outlay funding from the DNR in addition to savings from the park. This option is less costly and more effective than armoring the bluff, which has other consequences for the adjacent shorelines. Read the article here.



Acquisition of Shoreland for Dune Conservation

Muskegon County: Meinert Park/Flower Creek Dunes Preserve
Photo credit: Muskegon County Nature Club

The Land Conservation of West Michigan is hoping to buy 43 acres of land along the Lake Michigan shoreline. This would connect Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve to Meinert County Park creating 255 acres of contiguous shoreline. This conservation effort would protect a large part of Lake Michigan’s shoreline of which 75% is designated as critical duneland. This area is also a very important ecological habit for migrating butterflies and birds. “The addition of these backdunes would ensure that an indispensable natural connection within the landscape is protected forever,” April Scholtz, land protection director at the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.

Acquiring shoreland like this can help build resilience along the coast, as it keeps hazard areas as green space. It prevents development near the shore which causes erosion and it maintains native species along the shore which are better suited for the habitat and also inhibit coastal erosion. Read the full story.


Exploring Funding Options for Shore Protection

Ogden Dunes seawall battered by waves. Photo Credit: NW Indiana Times

As a result of rising sea levels, Ogden Dunes, IN is looking for a way to pay for emergency repairs of the town’s sea walls. There are short-term and long-term funding opportunities that are available to them. Immediate funds can potentially be obtained by tax-deductible donations from residents. Another option is borrowing money in general obligation funds. However, the most likely short-term funding is to create a redevelopment commission and redevelopment authority. Longer-term finances may possibly be secured by setting up a conservancy district or seeking a voluntary referendum.  Read the full story here.

Special Improvement Districts in Ohio

Fenced-off, erosion-damaged area of Willoughby’s Osborne Park, OH
Photo Credit: News-Herald

In 2018, bipartisan legislation was introduced that would allow the formation of special improvement districts in Ohio in order to assist homeowners in addressing coastal erosion. Homeowners could sign a petition to form a special improvement district that would allow them to seek bonding to implement projects that would otherwise be too costly to pay for individually. In 2019, a group of mayors in Lake County, Ohio worked towards developing a shared special improvement district that would help property owners address erosion of Lake Erie’s shoreline within their municipalities. From 2018-2019, Eastlake, one of the municipalities in Lake County lost up to 50 feet of shoreline in some places. North Perry, another municipality lost about 60 feet at their village hall. The special improvement district would build capacity for the homeowners in these municipalities to increase their property’s resilience to erosion.

In Wisconsin, neighborhood improvement districts could be a path forward based on current instruments available in the state. You can read more about this option on page 24 in Adapting to a Changing Coast – Options and Resources for Local Officials in Southeastern Wisconsin Coastal Communities.
Rosewood Beach Sand Nourishment Project
Rosewood Beach in Highland Park, Illinois is a highly used, community asset. Due to the high water levels on Lake Michigan, the beach has experienced severe sand erosion. Despite an offshore, protective revetment, continued erosion could have put park structures at risk. An emergency beach nourishment project was approved by the Park Board of Commissioners to address erosion of the shoreline and swimming coves. This nourishment project was intended to mitigate erosion from the high water levels and severe storms. Before the project began, the beach receded nearly 45 feet. Work on the project began in October 2019. Visit the Park District’s website for more details.
Village of Sodus Point Community Resilience Model

The Village of Sodus Point, NY used a visioning process piloted by the New York Sea Grant and the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council to help their community improve their resiliency to future flooding events. Part of the process included sharing a self-assessment checklist and hosting a public engagement workshop. Together, local residents, Village staff, Village/County department representatives, and topical experts all identified and prioritized actions that would make community assets more resilient to future flooding events. The workshop findings will be used to design rough project concepts with potential funding sources. Visit their website for more details.



Brandenburg Park

The seawall at Brandenburg Park
Photo Credit: Chesterfield Township

Chesterfield Township is in the process of developing shoreline restoration plans for Brandenburg Park which is regarded as “the jewel of Chesterfield Township.” The township was awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assist with engineering and design fees. Shoreline erosion has led to the degradation of the existing protection structure – a steel seawall. The plans for the park will include transforming the shoreline into a ‘living shoreline,’ restoring native habitat, creating a protected harbor with a new breakwall, and installing an education station describing the project and habitat.

Read the full story here.




Euclid Waterfront Improvement Plan

Illustration by SmithGroupJJR showing part of Euclid’s lakefront plan
Photo Credit: The Plain Dealer

Through a public planning process, the city of Euclid, OH developed a Waterfront Improvement Plan that will provide public access for recreational opportunities, reclaim the City’s historic beaches, restore the coastal environment, and become a catalyst for economic investment and area-wide revitalization. The plan is organized in four sections; community vision, inventory and analysis of coastal influences and physical attributes, opportunities for improvement and enhancement, and steps for implementation. Euclid plans to take responsibility for shoreline erosion in exchange for easements that allow public access to the waterfront. Construction began in the fall of 2018 and will be completed in phases throughout 2019.

Visit the City’s website for more information and updates.


Milwaukee County Coastline Management Policy

Funding from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program will enable Milwaukee County Parks to inventory & prioritize the County’s coastal resources based on an assessment of the vulnerability of assets along 14 miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline to extreme weather. The coastline is currently impacted by coastal hazards such as high water levels, erosion, and coastal storms. The development of a Coastline Management Policy will assist with reducing shoreline recession, bluff failure, coastal erosion.

Read the full story here.



New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance

Shoreline near Warwick Shores Condominiums
Photo Credit: Harbor County News

The communities of Sunset Shores, Warwick Shores, Grand Beach and Forest Beach formed the New Buffalo Shoreline Alliance (NBSA) to address property damage and loss of coastal ecology due to severe beach erosion cause by high water levels on Lake Michigan. In partnership with the City of New Buffalo and the New Buffalo township, the NBSA submitted an application for a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant and a Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Grant to help fund the installation of a series of submerged breakwaters. This project proposal includes an inter-jurisdictional effort that aims to restore the community’s beaches, economy, and coastal habitat.

Read the full story here.



Samuel P.  Meyers Park

East side of coastal wetlands restoration area.
Photo Credit: Root-Pike WIN

The Racine Health Department in collaboration with Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services and the Department of Public Works implemented a revitalization project at Samuel P. Meyers Park in Racine, Wisconsin. The effort was supported by volunteer involvement and community fundraising. The revitalization included stopping direct stormwater from reaching the shoreline, increasing accessibility to the lakefront, and restoring coastal wetlands. The City also eradicated invasive and other non-indigenous species, and planted more than 30,000 native plants that helped restore wildlife, flora and fauna. This project not only restored coastal habitat and a community resource but helped to increase coastal resiliency.

Read the full story here. For more information and updates, you can also visit this site.



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