In 2013, the year the state handed Cleveland Metroparks control of the city’s lakefront parks, 702,000 people visited Edgewater Beach.
Last year, even before the cool Beach House was built, attendance jumped to 1.3 million — a big chunk of the 3.5 million visitors across the Metroparks lakefront parks, beaches and marinas.
The total includes thousands of people who came to rock out to Edgewater Live, the 10-week concert series where attendance jumped another 50 percent from last year to this year.
But it’s also the marinas and swim areas and parks. From Huntington Reservation to Wildwood, from beaches to marinas, attendance across the Cleveland Metroparks lakefront parks is growing.
(The Metroparks count cars with wires beneath their entrances and multiply that number by the average number of people per car, deduced by counters who work each season. Employees also count people walking and biking on paths into the reservations.)
“Lakefront development has been a priority for Cleveland Metroparks over the past several years and we’ve been focusing on making it clean and safe with programming,” said chief marketing officer Kelly Manderfield. “We’ve focused on cleaning and restoring the lakefront and helping to connect Northeast Ohio with its greatest natural resource.”
The Metroparks warn that the numbers aren’t perfect year-to-year comparisons. They say from 2014 to 2016, visitors in Cleveland lakefront reservations increased 7 percent.
Regardless of the exact numbers, it’s clear more Clevelanders are flocking to Lake Erie — in part because the beaches are cleaner. A tractor rakes the beach at Edgewater every day in warm weather, for example. But also because of new amenities.
This year, the Metroparks have built new jetties at Perkins Beach at Edgewater Park.
They’re updating the Emerald Necklace Marina at Rocky River Reservation and restoring the Old Coast Guard Station, where new trails will connect Whiskey Island to the rest of the waterfront. And next year they’ll finish the pier at Euclid Beach.
“As we look to continue to build off of recent development along the lakefront, such as the Beach House at Edgewater, we look forward to increasing opportunities for the people of Northeast Ohio to connect with the lakefront,” Manderfield said.