- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

MARBLEHEAD, Ohio (AP) - Ohio’s best beach is, sadly, the one etched in distant memories of a past generation.

“I’ve seen people literally break down and cry when they think of what the beach at East Harbor State Park used to be and what’s not there now for their grandkids,” said Dick Taylor, who used to frequent the beach as a child.

Now a Findlay resident, Taylor is founder and president of a nonprofit group called BeachAid-East Harbor. He has tried for more than a decade to convince state officials that the park’s shoreline needs to be re-engineered to give the once-massive beach there a fighting chance at a comeback.

But he’s had little to show for his efforts and faces an uphill battle with state officials, despite $88.5 million being made available for state park improvements over the next two years.

Huge slabs of concrete form a man-made breakwall, also known as a revetment or seawall, along East Harbor State Park’s southeastern peninsula.

They stand in place of where a Florida-like beach more than 2.5 miles long once drew 30,000 visitors a weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day - so popular there were long traffic jams and 200 or more families would be turned away on a given day.

All that remains now is a 1,500-foot strip on the north end, an auxiliary beach that is barely a tenth of what East Harbor once had.

Placed along the East Harbor shoreline in 1957 by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the concrete structure hardened the shoreline.

It didn’t immediately cause the beach to erode.

Most of the beach was wiped out by a 1972 storm.

But Taylor and his supporters believe the man-made barrier has made it impossible for the beach to regenerate.

Now that the administration of Gov. John Kasich has announced it is planning to invest $88.5 million in capital improvements at Ohio’s 74 state parks during the next two years, Taylor has visions of an economic carrot being dangled in Columbus that could get his coveted project off the ground.

He is proposing that state officials spend $250,000 to remove 2,000 feet of the breakwall and conduct a five-year study of how the enhanced flow of water promotes more synergy between the lake and a sand dune.

Taylor is convinced such a pilot study would convince the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that removing the entire breakwall would regenerate at least a fair amount of the original beach, though perhaps not all of it.

He considers the vanished beach one of the greatest losses of public access to Lake Erie in Ohio’s history.

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