Sandusky is a town of 25,000 people with a metropolitan area of 77,000 located on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, about 115 miles or 185 kilometers from Detroit. This town was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and was a place where slaves trying to reach Canada crossed Lake Erie to Amherstburg Ontario. It was once centred around a railroad, and hosted Charles Dickens in 1842. Sandusky has an extraordinary waterfront that is now being transformed out of industrial uses into recreational ones.
The town has embarked on an ambitious endeavour to relocate their city hall into the downtown near the waterfront, and to redevelop one of the old industrial piers, Jackson Pier into a recreational multi-purpose space for citizens, with potentially a water park and other amenities. In fact, the town just announced its public process was to commence.
Now you would think that taking an industrial pier and redeveloping it for the public would be something that would be embraced by residents. While walking, fishing and access to ferries will be maintained, parking at the pier end-something that used to be standard-might not be there. And that started an online petition against the proposed park as a “commercial decimation” of public property in downtown Sandusky. Why? People wanted the right to park at the end of the pier. In fact they want 40 spaces at the end of the pier.
You can go online and view a video with a proponent of Save Our Shoreline explain that people need access to water and need to drive to the end of the pier to get a “180 degree view” to feel better. There’s no mention of the recreational benefits of walking to the end of the pier, or the placement of a playground, or the benefits of a commercial establishment to provide food and a warm winter place for people enjoying the space. And no one has mentioned the Surgeon General of the United States’ advocacy of 20 minutes of walking a day, or the fact that in the 21st century view spaces can’t be taken up by cars. To create community demands walkable sociability, face to face interactions and ways to knit an old commercial pier into a greenscape opportunity for workers and potential downtown dwellers in the future.
Motordom, and the right of vehicles to champion potential public spaces, is still embraced by an older population that rues what was, and plans their future based on their own auto dependent experience. Let’s hope Sandusky will look across the water at Amherstburg in Ontario with King’s Navy Yard Park a ten acre waterfront park cited as one of Canada’s Historic Places, and now expanding to include more park space. And you will note-there is no parking along that waterfront.