CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Due to public outcry and back by popular demand, City Council’s Community Relations and Recreation Committee will hold an online public meeting Thursday (April 15) at 7:15 p.m. to continue the discussion of fishing at Lower Shaker Lake.
The meeting comes in the wake of close to 100 emails received at last week’s council meeting, the overwhelming majority calling for the city to lift the fishing ban on its side of the lake, in order to allow the free stocking of bass and bluegill through a state program.
Meanwhile, the person claiming to be the “Anonymous Angler” who posted flyers around the drained lake urging public response on the issue has done some additional trolling, this time on the internet to the Sun Press, demanding that the people be heard.
“While (the Friends of Lower Lake) have done a fantastic job stewarding the flora and removing trash, their personal wish to ban fishing has overshadowed their ecological reasoning,” the still-anonymous writer said. “This lake does not belong to them, it does not belong to you, and it does not belong to me.
“It belongs to ALL of us, and on April 5, I heard nearly 90 voices ask for fishing in Lower Lake, and only 10 against,” the email continued. “The will of the people should not be thwarted by bureaucrats and special interest groups.”
There was also at least one vote for kayaking on Lower Lake, last week’s article failed to point out.
After last week’s Cleveland Heights council meeting, Friends of Lower Lake co-chairs Peggy Spaeth and John Barber sent a letter to Shaker Heights Mayor David Weiss and City Council there, citing “a tale of two cities, one lake, and different fishing policies.”
Spaeth and Barber commended city officials for not taking the Ohio Department of Natural Resources up on its offer to stock the lake, given the state of the dam and spillway that has led to Lower Lake being drained multiple times in recent years to re-fortify the 170-year-old infrastructure.
But they also asked the city to reconsider last year’s decision to update 2013 version of the Land Use and Management Plan for the Shaker Parklands by adding to the document a clause that states “Shaker Heights does not prohibit fishing on the south side of Lower Lake, pending a public use planning process.”
At the same time, Cleveland Heights has maintained its “no fishing” policy on the northern side of the lake, which City Parks and Recreation Director Joe McRae would like to see continued, citing additional reasons in an updated memo to council.
Those concerns include:
• The Shaker side of the lakefront being wider with a more natural layout that lends itself to fishing. “The Cleveland Heights side is more narrow, and does not have good access for fishing. The existing native vegetation will be trampled.”
• A possibly significant increase in litter that will be harmful to the environment and dangerous to walkers, kids, and pets (such as fish hooks). “ODNR will not have a daily presence to police this issue, and the city does not have the resources to do so.”
• Very limited parking. “Once the lake is stocked, there will be a significant increase in people coming there to fish, but no place for them to park on the north side. Parking on North Park Boulevard is not really safe from a traffic standpoint.
• Due to the pandemic, “there has been no public process to discuss this significant change that may impact residents on both sides of the lake.”
McRae added that “staff does not object to stocking the lake with fish for the environmental benefits. But fishing brings about other issues that must be considered and addressed in a way that is safe for the environment and safe for residents who also want to enjoy Lower Lake.”
In response to last week’s Sun Press article, the person claiming to have circulated the flyer disputed many of Spaeth and Barber’s contentions, arguing that as an “Audubon Important Bird Area,” there is no reason Lower Lake couldn’t have both.
“Virtually every designated site with water also has a robust fishing culture,” including Rocky River and the Chagrin River, the email stated, adding, “what do bald eagles and osprey eat? Fish. What are there none of in Lower Lake? Fish.”
The writer also countered claims from the Friends of Lower Lake, as well as those of Doan Brook Watershed Partnership Executive Director Victoria Mills that Lower Lake is currently too shallow and silty to sustain gamefish.
“This response betrays either a lack of ecological understanding or anti-fishing sentiment masquerading as ecology. Do they know fish better than the fisheries’ department of the ODNR?” the “Anonymous Angler” asked. “The habitat, water quality, and other ecological factors in Lower Lake make it suitable for such a goal. Additionally, carp ARE the main reason the lake is silty.”
While the writer maintains that a lake with a maximum depth of 6-8 feet will support other kinds of fish besides carp, Lower Lake’s current average depth on its western end (near the dam and Coventry Road) is about 6 feet.
However, “it appears that it’s around 2 feet (average depth) on the eastern end,” closer to the North Woodland Road bridge and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes’ march, Jowett added.
Officials with the Nature Center and the ODNR could not be reached for comment prior to Thursday’s Cleveland Heights council committee meeting.
The troller also pointed out that fishing has a long history on Lower Lake, and now provides citizens with a responsible and enjoyable socially distanced activity during the stressful time of COVID-19.
“The concerns about ‘trash from fishermen’ are alarmist, overblown, and disguise an anti-sportsman bias,” the footnoted email stated.
Read more from the Sun Press.