They came from yacht clubs and marinas all along Ohio’s north coast, to voice their concerns about Lake Erie.

They worry about harmful algal blooms, invasive species, dredging, erosion, the dead zone in the central basin.

They want Norfolk Southern railroad to raise the bridge over the Cuyahoga River more quickly, and renters of kayaks and stand-up paddleboard to be better educated in safety rules. They want more direction on where they can dock their boat in the Flats.

“We as recreational boaters are looking for ways to improve our lake,” said Chip Minshall, an Edgewater Yacht Club trustee. He called the meeting in late October because, he said, “it needed to be done.”

Leaders of the Greater Cleveland Boating Association were there, representing tens of thousands of boaters. The Cleveland Sailing Association was represented. And the Inter-Lake Yachting Association, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Cleveland Metroparks, the Chagrin River Watershed Partners and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office.

They all sat at tables forming a big rectangle at Edgewater Yacht Club, and one by one, they named their concerns – from breakwalls to police patrols. Together they want to solve the issues that plague the lake and its boaters.

The lake is Cleveland’s diamond, they said. But “right now we’re on the verge of a diamond turning into coal,” said one.

For boaters in the western basin of the lake, the harmful algal bloom that spreads over the surface like an icky green mat every summer, thanks to phosphorus that pours in from farm runoff.

“We’re turning our lake into a giant poison hole,” said John Popovich, of Greater Cleveland Boating Association.

For boaters in Cleveland, they want Norfolk Southern railroad to be more responsive to requests to raise the bridge, the closest to the mouth of the river, so they don’t end up waiting for hours.

One suggestion was to add a clock to the bridge, letting boaters know when it would open.

This meeting was just the start, though.

Nick Turner of Kaptur’s office urged people to contact their city and state officials with their problems.  

(Even though one man said wryly, “It seems Columbus doesn’t even know there’s a lake out there, which is unfortunate.”)

Ken Alvey, of the 

In the off season, Lake Erie boaters are tackling big problems.

board, said boaters should invite politicians to see the problems first-hand.

“You got a boat? Invite them to go fishing.”

The group will reconvene in December, dividing up to focus on specific issues: infrastructure, safety and the environment. And they plan to meet again in February.

“We identified the problems. Now, how to fix these problems. “