Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Remarkable Lake County - "Have you experienced Marker #17-43?"

History exists in so many places.  Some local histories like lighthouses, classic houses, cemeteries, or bridges are quite obvious.  Local historical societies preserve stories and artifacts from their communities.  Thus, important local sites such as Native American settlements, a Finn Hollow, and a Willoughby Medical College are remembered.  Other pieces of local lore such as an Amy Kaukonen, Jack Casement, Hugh Mosher, Sam Huntington, or The Spirit of '76 are passed down through the generations.  Today we look at a site that may be overlooked or understated when one considers important local history.  I have visited friends at the docks located there.  I have walked the nearby trails. I have seen its signage posted on the Lake County roadways.  I, like many Mentorites have driven by it hundreds of times.  Historic Marker #17-43 is The Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve and Marina.

The Mentor Lagoons wetlands is one of the few remaining riverine marshes surviving along Lake Erie.  The lagoons are a large estuary where the Grand River once flowed into Lake Erie.  Today it is mostly a marsh.  The 1.5 miles of nature contain dunes, the riverine marsh, nurseries for fish and waterfowl, as well as a migratory stopping place for neo-tropical birds and butterflies.  Estimates have over 150 species of birds using the preserve in some manner annually.

Historically, the Mentor Lagoons area has had a 200 year impact on northeastern Ohio.  In 1797, Charles Parker, a member of Moses Cleaveland's survey party came upon the area.  He platted lands for the Connecticut Land Company and a marsh settlement came to be.  In 2002, an archeology field experience determined two distinct periods of history utilized the lagoons.  In the Late Archaic Period (1600-1000 BC), Leimbach Thick Pottery was found.  AD 1000-1600 Native American artifacts confirm that the Whittlesey culture had a presence there.  Since the early 1900's many attempts to commercialize the lagoons have been undertaken, but none have proved enduring.  An attempt in the 1990's to dramatically change the area resulted in the 1996-1998 acquisition of the properties by the city of Mentor.  Using eminent domain status, Mentor has made the Lagoons and Marina a historic site to be enjoyed by all.  The Mentor Lagoons Marina is a safe harbor for boating enthusiasts and  recreational boating courses are offered there.  Nearby, The Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve is now five miles of hiking trails and distinct vistas.

Summer is only half over.  A visit to the Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve and Marina site is a one tank trip worth considering.

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