Assessing Impacts of 2019 Record High Water Levels on Great Lakes Parks and Protected Areas

Authors: Patrick Lawrence*, University of Toledo, Eric Kostecky, University of Toledo
Topics: Planning Geography, Environment, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Great Lakes, natural hazards, parks and protected areas
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2019, all five of the Great Lakes experienced record high water levels that surpassed previous levels held since 1985/86 or earlier. Limited previous studies conducted following those historical events documented that impacts that associated flooding and erosion had on many parks and protected areas located along the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Interruptions to visitor services and programs and damages to infrastructure were serious short and long-term issues at many sites. As a follow-up to earlier research, and to assess any new or emerging park planning challenges, a survey of selected federal and state/provincial parks was conducted – along with an online review of news stories and available reports – to examine the 2019 events and impacts. Ten survey questions administered via Survey Monkey was sent to park management staff at 40 sites located in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York and Ontario, with a focus on parks with the highest visitor numbers and largest range of day use and overnight activities and services. This paper provides a preliminary summary of the results of this study to date and highlights information gained by assessment of the operations and facilities that were directly impacted by shoreline flooding and erosion, plus initial assessment of immediate and subsequent direct and in-direct financial costs and associated planning issues identified.

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