Saturday, Oct 20, 2018
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Northwest Ohio birding has $30 million impact on state economy

Annual survey of foot traffic shows 15% increase from 2015


GIBRALTAR ISLAND, Ohio — Northwest Ohio birding had a $30 million impact on Ohio’s economy this spring, thanks largely to events such as the Biggest Week in American Birding festival.

Larry Fletcher, Lake Erie Shores & Islands executive director, told the Ohio Lake Erie Commission here today an Ohio Department of Natural Resources annual survey of foot traffic along the Magee Marsh boardwalk in Ottawa County counted 90,000 visitors during the peak April-May migration season, a 15-percent increase over the same window of time in 2015.

Mr. Fletcher was not on the formal agenda, but presented the numbers at the end of the meeting when the commission took comments and questions from the audience.

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission is a Lake Erie policy board comprised of state agency department heads and others selected by the state of Ohio.

Mr. Fletcher used the data to show the board that a healthy Lake Erie helps stimulate Ohio’s economy.

In a related matter, he said the federal government has chosen a popular Lake Erie attraction, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, as a site to help celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary Aug. 25-28.

Mr. Fletcher also said the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition, one of the region’s largest collection of zoos, museums, outdoor, conservation, environmental and educational groups, will have its annual conference at Hotel Breakers in Sandusky Aug. 25-27. That is expected to draw more attention to Lake Erie, coming a month after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission spent an extensive time talking about a Lake Erie restoration plan and what it means to northwest Ohio farms, which are believed to produce 65 to 85 percent of the algae-growing phosphorus.

More details on that will appear in Thursday’s print edition of The Blade.

The commission also approved four small pilot grants and indicated a preference for one headed by the University of Toledo but tabled a vote until the project becomes more developed.

The approved grants include one for $60,000 for Kent State University to see if it can develop aggregate for bioswales, green roofs and other green infrastructure from dredged material; $26,250 for the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority to develop reuses for dredged material; $15,000 for Bowling Green State University to augment an existing study it has going into evaluating runoff from fields fertilized with manure, and $60,000 for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to study the possibility of reclaiming quarries with dredged material.

The commission tabled a vote to give UT $59,051 for reusing dredged material in a proposed North Toledo agricultural research project because it is not far enough along. UT is working on that project near Riverside Park with the city of Toledo, the state of Ohio, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

Money for the pilot grants comes mostly from revenue generated by Lake Erie license plate sales and private contributions. 

Contact Tom Henry at:, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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