PORT CLINTON — On Lake Erie’s spreadsheet, the numbers continue to be staggering. There is the $15.1 billion in tourism-related economic impact in 2017, just for the eight Ohio counties that border the big lake — Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Erie, Lorain, Cuyahoga, Lake, and Ashtabula.
Then there is the $1.9 billion in taxes tourism generated, and the 128,000 tourism-related jobs anchored in those eight counties, jobs that can’t be outsourced or moved elsewhere on the map.
At the 39th annual Governor’s Fish Ohio Day here Tuesday, it was time to remind everyone of the lake’s tremendous value as a recreation magnet, a fishing paradise, and a safe drinking water source for millions.
“This is a testament to the power of that lake,” said Larry Fletcher, president of Lake Erie Shores & Islands tourist bureau. “And this event is all about learning about this great resource.”
On hand for the morning of fishing and an afternoon of celebrating the lake were numerous local and state politicians, almost 20 Lake Erie charter captains who donated their boats, equipment, and expertise to make the event possible, and officials from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Wildlife.
“Well, the fishing has been the best I’ve heard in 40 years,” ODNR director Jim Zehringer said. “The numbers are off the charts ... and we’re going to continue to do our part.”
Zehringer used the forum to tout various improvements to state parks along the lake, and a new state park lodge that will be coming online on North Bass Island.
“We’re going to roll out the lodge at North Bass, and you guys are going to be blown away by this new facility that we’re gonna make open to the public out there,” he said.
Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, standing in for Gov. John Kasich, who has skipped the event each of the past four years, stressed the importance of making the next generation aware of the lake’s value.
“We have such a special natural resource and asset for the great state of Ohio in Lake Erie and I can’t think of a better way to be able to showcase how wonderful Lake Erie is,” she said. “The next generation and getting them engaged in this wonderful lake will, over time, we hope, help make our job easier because the most important thing we can do is to protect this lake and to protect the natural resource and the asset that it is to our state.’
Taylor urged continued collaboration by all parties to keep the lake clean and preserve the resource, and asked finger-pointing and assigning blame for the lake’s problems not be part of the effort.
“It’s hard to not have bad feelings or ill feelings toward others who you think are participating in harming the lake, and you know we want to do everything we can to make sure we protect this resource,” said Taylor, who added she caught six fish during the morning outing.
“I think we’re going to get so much more done if we all just acknowledge that this is one of the most important things we can focus on and that we need to sit around the table and have an open discussion in a very honest and genuine way to do what is necessary to protect our great Lake Erie.”
Taylor, whose term will end this year, made an unsuccessful run to be the Republican candidate for governor in November but insisted she will remain active in protecting the lake.
“Don’t be the bomb thrower, be a part of the discussion that will actually help us make progress and continue to make progress on protecting this great lake,” she said. “I am committed to that myself personally, in whatever capacity I find myself in over the course of the next couple of years.”
State Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) praised Paul Pacholski and Dave Spangler from the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association for their tireless efforts on behalf of the lake.
“If it wasn’t for their leadership, we would not be where we are today with attacking open lake disposal of dredge materials and making real progress on positive initiatives,” he said. “Those two were primarily responsible for driving that issue, and they’ve got great support on it.”
Gardner also stressed the importance of maintaining the multitude of efforts to preserve, protect, and enhance the lake.
“There is still a lot more to do, but we all ought to also acknowledge the tourism value and impact to the state,” Gardner said. “This is a great place to be, a great place to visit, and a great place to live. We are all so thankful we have this great lake.”
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6068.
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