Erie, Pennsylvania: Small place, big boating
The Presque Isle peninsula is a 3,200-acre, seven-mile long arm that extends northeast into Lake Erie creating a large, sheltered boating paradise of a harbour.
With a string of well-equipped marinas, a wealth of facilities and a very impressive yacht club, it has attractions for boaters that place it at the top of a cruising destination list. This may come as a bit of a surprise since Erie, Pennsylvania, is a relatively small community with a population that has hovered around 100,000 for decades. Nonetheless, it is a comparative giant in terms of boating.
Boats and Erie have a solid historic connection. If you managed to stay awake during Grade 10 history you’d have traced the communities of the lake back to the early exploration of North America. During the War of 1812 (which we know as our victory in Canada, although it seems to have had a different outcome south of the border) 27-year-old U.S. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry built a fleet of ships and defeated the British at the Battle of Lake Erie.
During the industrializing years of America, a canal system was hammered out of the Pennsylvania landscape connecting Pittsburgh and the rest of the state north to Lake Erie establishing its commercial importance. The south shore of Lake Erie was an expressway for sailing and steamships heading from the newly minted booming American west to the Erie Canal, which famously began at Buffalo and led to the rich markets and export ports of the US eastern seaboard.
The railways in North America eventually superseded transport by water and highways subsequently pushed the lake ports off the industrial map. The population of Erie along with neighbouring Cleveland and Buffalo has been declining since 1950s.
NEXT PAGE: Waterfront tourism and boating a booming part of Erie’s economy