Eco-tourism is goal for Erie shore

10/15/2005
BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, background, announces a Lake Erie grant. John Papcun is to her right and Linda Hartlaub to her left. Frank Lichtkoppler and Joan Van Offeren are in front.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, background, announces a Lake Erie grant. John Papcun is to her right and Linda Hartlaub to her left. Frank Lichtkoppler and Joan Van Offeren are in front.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) spent yesterday enjoying a mild autumn day along the Lake Erie shoreline with members of a fledgling eco-tourism group for which she helped secure a $248,000 grant.

The grant recipient, the nonprofit Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Inc., has been making a few waves of its own recently.

On Sept. 14, it received the Ohio Lake Erie Commission's top stewardship award for its work in linking up the layman with nature-based tourism opportunities.

Eight days later, the Federal Highway Administration awarded it National Scenic Byway status for a 300-mile trail the group had identified from Lucas to Ashtabula counties. That made the proposed national byway eligible for special U.S. Department of Transportation funding and protection.

The same trail was one of 22 recognized this year by the Ohio Department of Transportation as state scenic byways.

The grant that Miss Kaptur secured for Lake Erie Coastal Ohio is the three-year-old group's first from the federal government. The money came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes National Program Office in Chicago.

The longtime congressman said she is impressed by the group's desire to help her get the Ohio Lake Erie shoreline viewed as "our Hilton Head and our Cape Cod."

Melinda Huntley, the executive director of Lake Erie Coastal Ohio, said the money will be used to help put together theme-based tours of attractions, such as lighthouses and maritime museums.

It also will be used to promote coastal attractions steeped in history and tradition.

"We like to say our goal is to get heads in beds. We want to increase economic tourism and advocate for features that make us special," she said.