CLEVELAND — There are nearly 1,000 miles of designated water trails in Ohio thanks to a push from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“The goal of ODNR’s water trail program is to promote the awareness of public paddling access while increasing safety by partnering with local communities to develop designated water trails on Ohio’s waterways,” according to the ODNR website.
The state’s 16th water trail has been added: the Lake Erie Water Trail in Cuyahoga County.
It’s a more than 20-mile stretch of water along the coastline from Huntington Beach to Sims Park.
Designating it a “water trail” means the stretch of will have marked access points and safety information.
“It’s a little bit of a weird concept, because you hear the word ‘trail’ and you think ‘oh, it’s a trail in the woods or it’s a paved bicycle trail,'” explained Cleveland Metro Park’s Mary Rouse. “Obviously that’s not exactly what it looks like.”
Avid kayakers said this is a great step in making water sports safer and more accessible in the area.
“The Lake Erie Water Trail is different than any other one because it’s essentially open next to the coast for most of it and it requires a different set of skills, and a little different set of knowledge for people to go out and safely use them,” explained 41 North Kayak Adventure Owner Mark Pecot.
Pecot has been in the water sports business since 2003. He said the pandemic caused a surge in people wanting to get on the water.
Since 2006, the ODNR says interest in water craft has quadrupled, and while the Lake Erie Water trail just received its designation, Pecot has been paddling his way on the coast for decades.
“I like to think we were a little bit ahead of the curve, we were recognizing that people wanted to be on the Great Lakes but there weren’t always a lot of access points or places that you could just rent a boat to get out on Lake Erie,” said Pecot.