Over the last four years, the beaches in Avon Lake have virtually disappeared.
But where did they go?
Since 2018, water levels in Lake Erie have risen above the long-term average, which is around 572 feet, according to Assistant Chief of the Office of Coastal Management Deb Beck.
“So the beach may still be there, it just may be underwater so it doesn’t appear to be as wide as it is under lower water levels,” Beck said.
Right now, the water level is 15 inches higher than the long-term average. There is no definitive cause as to why the water levels in Lake Erie have risen so significantly, but Beck said increased rainfall in the Upper Great Lakes flowing into Lake Erie is the most likely cause.
“It’s not solely due to ice melt, it can be due to the lack of ice cover,” Beck said. “We haven’t had a lot of ice cover, so it’s more related, in this case, to increased rain and other types of precipitation within the Great Lakes basin.”
The beaches at Miller Road Park and Veterans Memorial Park used to be popular among residents. Now, Miller Road Park’s beach is gone and closed to the public.
Avon Lake Recreation Director Tim Pincheck said it’s “unfortunate” that the beaches are not as accessible as they used to be.
“Avon Lake is a beach community and currently, we don’t have access to that amenity that the city was so fond of for many years,” Pincheck said.
Because of higher water levels, the beach at Veterans Memorial Park is significantly smaller, with only a few strips of sand and stone beaches. People typically use the area for launching small boats or kayaks rather than for swimming.
Avon Lake residents of 29 years Tim and Lori Holmes said they come to Veterans Memorial Park weekly to paddleboard, swim and go fishing.
“Last year, there was hardly anything here,” Tim said. “This year, it’s dramatically different.”
While the water levels are slowly making progress towards the long-term average, Beck said, it will still take time for the levels to return to the average.
The beach loss has impacted the way patrons of the parks use the area. At Veterans Memorial Park, signs saying “Swim at your own risk” are scattered throughout the park, as well as “No lifeguard on duty” signs.
Access to the beach at Veterans Memorial Park has changed dramatically, Pincheck said. The city used to have independent organizations come in and offer kayaking and sunset cruises to patrons, but now they cannot do that because of the water levels.
“We’ve had a lot of visitors… that have frequented the beaches in the past, but without accessibility, they just haven't come back to our parks for the beaches,” Pincheck said. “They’ve had to choose different locations and visit different facilities that still have beaches.”
Avon resident Jodie Rhodes still comes to Veterans Memorial Park beach to look for sea glass, but she has to go to other beaches if she wants to take her kids swimming.
“We used to come here to swim and now we don’t come here to swim at all,” Rhodes said. “This is closer to home, so it’s easier to come here.”
The city is looking into ways to try to preserve the beaches, Pincheck said. Public Works Director Joe Reitz was unavailable for comment on the specifics of the projects.
For now, cities like Avon Lake are able to apply for grants from ODNR to help preserve the beaches, Beck said.
Avon Lake resident Mary Rousos rides her bike to Veterans Memorial Park weekly to enjoy the scenery. She hopes something will be done to preserve the beach.
“Avon Lake is such a beautiful community,” Rousos said. “This could be a lot nicer.”
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