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Erie islands to showcase their natural wonders

07/24/2016, 12:41am EDT
By BY MATT MARKEY BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

Celebration will take place Aug. 6-13

Erie islands to showcase their natural wonders

The Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial. The South Bass Island/Put-in-Bay area celebrates Island Green Week Aug. 6-13. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

PUT-IN-BAY, Ohio — A lot of the notoriety carried by the Lake Erie islands stems from the rich history and lore — Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s decisive victory in The Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, the Hotel Victory, once the largest resort in the United States, and the many vineyards.

In more recent times, this busy vacation spot has been renowned for its active night life, along with the food and spirits served up by Mossbacks Island Bar & Grill, the Beer Barrel, The Round House and Frosty Bar. Summer weekends find the harbor jammed with pleasure boats lined up like the beads on an abacus.

But the bars and the boats are just a portion of the true wealth of options on the islands. In an effort to showcase more of the natural resources and natural wonders of the archipelago, Island Green Week was hatched from the cool waters of the lake. The celebration takes place Aug. 6-13, is open to the public and all proceeds from the fee-based events will benefit island nature programs.

Lisa Brohl, who chairs the Lake Erie Islands Conservancy, agreed that Island Green Week is essentially the eco-tour equivalent of the Parade of Homes. While just 450 people make up South Bass Island/​Put-in-Bay’s year round population and only 45 are year-round residents of nearby Middle Bass Island, the two islands play host to some 750,000 visitors each year.

“This is an opportunity to show the whole region that we have a lot more to offer,” Brohl said. “We still have the downtown and its long-established appeal, but there are also trails and nature preserves, the caves and beautiful rocky shorelines, plus the wildlife and those incredible sunsets. This weeklong celebration gives us a chance to show people the other side of the islands.”

The Conservancy has teamed with the Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center, and the Put-in-Bay Township Park District, to put together this extravaganza of exploration that the organizers have designed to expose the natural beauty of the islands. They will utilize outdoor activities, entertainment, education and relaxation to carry that message.

Brohl said she hopes the event, which includes opportunities to visit some of the best birding sites on the islands, learn about the Lake Erie water snake, and understand more of the unique geology of the area, works as a springboard to bring more eco-tourism to the islands.

“There will be the opportunity to see a lot of things not readily or easily available, or on parts of the island our visitors don’t normally get to see,” Brohl said. “We want our guests to see our natural areas and get interested in them. We want the word to get out about everything we have here on the Lake Erie islands.”

The organizers of Island Green Week want visitors to revisit aspects of the islands and experience activities that might have amazed them as kids — the cliffs, caves, rocky shorelines, beach bonfires, campouts, beach combing, swimming, riding the ferry, exploring the trails, and finding water everywhere.

“All of those things are here, plus a whole lot more,” Brohl said. “We are very proud of our preserves, our parks and our natural areas, and it is exciting when we see families out there enjoying these places. We hope Island Green Week introduces a lot more people to these other aspects of the islands.”

Some of the highlights of the Island Green Week schedule include the dedication and celebration of one of the newest additions to the list of natural areas on the islands, the Massie Cliffside Preserve on East Point, a South Bass Island ringside seat for the lake’s spectacular sunsets.

The Eco-Tour portion of the Island Green Week starts with participants picking up a packet of maps, tour books and island information at Put-in-Bay Town Hall before embarking on an adventure that offers 28 stops.

There will be the opportunity to hike DeRivera Woods (Cooper’s Woods/​Shady Path), see the natural caves and visit historic Gibraltar Island. There are also stops at vineyards, the glacial grooves and the local water plant. Proceeds from this event benefit the Put-in-Bay Township Park District and will be used for the maintenance and protection of the nature preserves on the islands.

The Island Green Week kicks off with the Poker Kayak Day in the waters around Middle Bass Island. Tina Larson is helping put the event together, with an emphasis on showing off the state park on the island.

“As they kayak around, I think people will be surprised at what they see,” Larson said. “That state park is a real gem and the marina is beautiful. Middle Bass Island is one of the best kept secrets around and we hope a lot of people take this opportunity to explore and take it all in.”

Larson said Middle Bass Island has hosted U.S. presidents in the past, and has a very rich history of its own to share.

“It is very scenic and very quiet out there, and that is just what some people are looking for,” she said. “This is my 59th season on Middle Bass, and I am excited about the prospects of many new people visiting here. It is very important for the public to see the many things that make the islands so unique.”

OTTAWA HILLS HUNT: Registration opens Monday at 9 a.m. for hunters interested in taking part in the controlled bow hunt this fall. Visit the ottawahills.org/​hunt website for information and registration. Registration closes after 50 hunters sign up, or on Aug. 5, whichever comes first. After the screening and background checks on those on the initial list of registered hunters, 15 individuals are expected to be randomly selected to take part in the hunt.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.

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