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Award of Excellence Winner

Project Name:  Lakefront Public Access Plan 
Location:  Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Design Team:  SmithGroup

The Cuyahoga County Lakefront Public Access Plan (LPAP) expands lakefront public access while improving coastal protection along privately-owned shorelines. Historic development patterns and economic pressure has resulted in only 21% of the Cuyahoga County lakefront being publicly accessible. As concern over inequities in public lakefront access rose, Lake Erie also experienced the effects of climate change. The extended duration of high lake levels and limited winter lake ice combined to produce severe coastal erosion—threatening property, buildings, and infrastructure.


The LPAP builds on the successful public-private partnership model developed in Euclid, Ohio, a community at the eastern edge of Cuyahoga County. The model and the LPAP provide a framework for private lakefront landowners to voluntarily donate or provide lakefront easements to the County to construct new public lakefront access in exchange for public investment in shoreline protection—something that can only be truly effective when addressed at scale and not on a parcel-by-parcel basis. The LPAP identifies new public lakefront access along 50% of the shoreline, supports a more equitable distribution of lakefront access, defines a continuous lakefront route connecting east-west multimodal lakefront routes, and establishes the basis for a more resilient shoreline countywide.

The LPAP forges public-private partnerships key to expanding equitable access and protecting shorelines. Of the 3,824 privately-owned lakefront properties within Cuyahoga County, 276 of the landowners responded to a survey about partnering with the County. The majority of those responding, 68%, expressed a willingness to consider potential public-private partnerships. Priority areas for investment and further investigations into opportunities to form public-private partnerships to expand equitable access in exchange for shoreline protection focused on areas of private landowner receptivity and included other key considerations such as the willingness of the local municipality to participate in project implementation and communitywide resident priorities for linking existing lakefront parks and assets.

The LPAP explores a range of opportunities to forge public-private partnerships that expand public shoreline access in exchange for shoreline protection, provides recommendations for prioritizing segments of shoreline for potential investment along with corresponding strategies for lakefront access and bluff stabilization, and defines the steps needed to advance implementation of its recommendations. The plan integrates recommendations with ongoing countywide initiatives, expands equitable public lakefront access, protects shorelines and private properties, and enhances water quality, ecology and shoreline resilience. The result of the LPAP is a roadmap for a transformative series of projects that address issues of inequity, reduce risk from coastal erosion, and enhance mobility while enhancing ecological function and water quality.

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