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.


  1. Not quite sure you have actually been to this pier, but to classify an “old industrial pier” is not even close to being accurate. The 40 parking spaces referred to already exist. All we are asking for is the preservation of those 40 spots and consideration for the Goodtime 1 ferry line. The remainder of the pier can be “greened”.

  2. I love the way this one person assumes that every person is ABLE to walk to the end of the pier. There are many older and/or disabled persons that are NOT able to do this, and if they ARE able, there are many other waterfront options available for walking. I work on the pier, and do I think it needs some renovation and updating-absolutely, but a splash pad and taking away the northern, waterfront parking-NO! My 18 year old son just told me that when he is having a panic attack or just needs to sort out stuff, he goes and parks at the end of the pier, sits in his car and watched the water. So, it is not “old” people stuck in the past, it is what is in the best interests of all, including most of all, what the majority of locals want, not for the sake of commercial interests of a few.

    1. Very well said. The pier is a favorite fishing spot due to the fact it’s close proximity of the inner channel. I invite those with visions of a total remake of the pier to carry their fishing gear from the parking lot at Jackson Street to the pier.

    2. Pretty scary that somebody would think to get behind the wheel when they’re having a panic attack. Sad that you’re all so attached to your cars that a parking lot trumps quality public space.

    3. Thank you! Those Able to walk or peddle forget those who simply cannot do those things. Should they all just stay inside & wait for death or the nursing home to claim them?

  3. Regarding the principles on universal accessibility, a road and 40+ cars at the end of the pier counters this objective by effectively privatizing the space in favour of car owners. Accessibility appears to be already achieved in the design which — please correct me if I’m wrong — is dead level with generous pedestrian walkways, and perfect for wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Providing a few parking spots on the adjacent street designed for people with disabilities would appear be a perfectly reasonable alternative.
    Imagine if the pedestrian plaza and walkway at the end of the Canada Place pier in Vancouver was given over to cars? What a disaster that would be!

    1. In fact, converting 10% of the parking spaces at the farthest end of the indicated parking lot to accessible standards would allow people with disabilities vehicular access half way up the pier.

  4. I’m curious as to why we are even talking about completely converting the pier? You talk about splash pads, playgrounds, amphitheater, walkways and other such things to put on the pier. Why? To appeal to a bunch of yuppies that want a good view from their million dollar condos? Don’t get me wrong, I feel like the pier needs a facelift as well. But when you look at all of the land that is on the waterfront downtown that is undeveloped, or under developed I ask why are we focusing on the pier? We have the property to the left of the yacht club that would be perfect to add these amenities to, or the old wave pool property that sets dead. Or what about the property that sets right around the police station where the skate park already exists? Once the city spends millions to move the police and city offices downtown what are they going to do with the old property? Sell it off to rich condo developing investors? We only have so much land still to work with. Why not compromise on all accords? Make the pier beautiful yet functional for all of those that call it theirs, redevelop other properties that set dormant and make all of the waterfront beautiful again. Don’t let money and greed dictate the way we develop and create our property for our people. We can have the best of both worlds if we keep an open mind.

    1. Waterfront as public space — what’s wrong with making it open to ALL people, not just yuppies with million dollar condos who don’t own the views or the property?

      1. The idea is to improve the pier to include green space while at the same time maintain short-term 2 to 4 hour parking spaces at the north end. There are 244 parking spaces on the pier–maintaining 40 spaces at the north end is not an outrageous request.

  5. The proposed plan can be better implemented at an old unused pier at the east end of Water Street that sits unused. The Jackson Street Pier could use some strategically placed small trees, bushes and flowers, and a few more benches. It’s parking spaces are used by the elderly, disabled, and others for whom Bay Watching is a daily or occasional pleasure. Ferry services arrive and depart the city at this dock.

    1. Agree. The “old pier at the east end of town (and Battery Park)” would be a great spot for the Jackson Street Pier ideas being discussed here. One has to think this idea of over developing the Jackson Street Pier is a public diversion. The City of Sandusky has plans to construct Condos, retail, commercial and a hotel on Battery Park to the east.

  6. The city is falling apart! I still have family there so I return once a year. Every time I return “home” the city is worse than the last time I was there. I think money needs to be spent on infrastructure, not on some park. How about a new police station? How about repairing some of the curbs and roads? On top of all of that, have you noticed that the population of Sandusky has been on a steady decrease? There is a reason for that. There are no good jobs left. Not only can the residents not afford to spend money on some fancy park, that money should be invested to attract real jobs to Sandusky. Then when there are good jobs and all of the needed repairs are made let’s talk about making a new park. Would I ever move back? Not unless I could find a good job and could find a nice house in a neighborhood with low crime. That should be an eye opener right there. Building a new park is just like putting a new coat of paint on a house that is infested with termites.

  7. Tim Schwanger here President of Save Oir Shoreline Parks.
    I invite you and readers to visit Friends of the Jackson Street Pier Facebook Page for discussion, ideas and pictures from community members, 58 Dockers
    ( group of Sandusky graduates from 1958) and Friends of the Jackson Street Pier.
    Many of the public improvements you speak of are already in place within a short distance of the pier or are being planned for other areas along our waterfont.
    Lastly, FJSP is advocating for an improved pier with green areas, shaded swing seating, an open air pavilion with electric and gas fireplace.

  8. If it is not broken, don’t fix it. I see nothing wrong with it just the way it is. Spend the money on the streets and to fight crime.

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