CLEVELAND — Slowly eroding for years, the shoreline along Geneva-on-the-Lake now seems to be disappearing right before the public’s eyes.
Just in the last week, the water has gobbled up 6 to 8 feet of earth, says the Dwayne Bennett, the village’s mayor.
“It got bad really fast,” he said. “It’s been bad the last few years but has gotten worse in the last year.”
The waterfront park shared by Geneva-on-the-Lake and nearby communities lost its beach several years ago. Located 45 miles east of Cleveland in Ashtabula County, Geneva-on-the-Lake includes a small town with a strip of bars, restaurants and small shops.
Village administrator Jeremy Shaffer said that a January estimate put the cost of protecting the park’s shoreline at $1.3 million. He said that figure is obviously going up.
Shaffer showed off the damage to 3News on Friday, pointing to a sidewalk and a pavilion that look precarious close to the edge.
“This spring that probably went out 15 to 20 feet out to the north end of water and there was all grass everything and we lost all that, and in the fall, it started to undermine and now you can see the sidewalk is ready to fall in."
The recent above-normal water levels have made erosion worse, Shaffer says. And warm winter temperatures have turned the lake, typically frozen this time year, angry during heavy snowstorms.
Officials are looking for state and federal help, which could take years.
In the meantime, the board that manages the park is turning to homeowners for help. Next month, voters will be asked to back a property tax increase, which will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $42 a year. The money will be used to shore up the park’s slope. (The park board represents Geneva-on-the-Lake, Geneva Township, City of Geneva.)
Amanda Briggs, head of Geneva’s tourism bureau and a park board member, said the dramatic land loss documented in photos and posted on social media by officials, has gotten people's attention.
"It's very emotional for people,” she said. “It's an emotional button. It's a park they love. It's Geneva-on-the-Lake. You have a lot of childhood memories here. And to see that threatened has gotten a lot of people interested in the situation.”
UPDATE: Brandon Simmons continued our reporting on this story during Friday's edition of What Matters Most