Presque Isle, PA

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Erie, PA, A Great Place to Live and Visit!

I've already written about why I love Presque Isle, now I'd like to tell you more about it, and about our town on the south shore of Lake Erie, namely Erie, PA.

When I first moved here in 1971, this was one scary place to live! The downtown area was rundown and overwhelmed by prostitutes, drug dealers and other unsavory characters. The park in the middle of downtown, Perry Square, was surrounded by seedy bars and alleyways. Criminals prowled the streets and it wasn't safe to walk downtown after dark. And you didn't dare go near Griswold Plaza.

What a difference now! The square was cleaned up, the old squalid buildings demolished and new ones put up. Businesses moved into the heart of the city, and museums were created. We have the ExperiencErie Children's Museum, the Erie Art Museum, a new waterfront library, Blasco Memorial Library, home to the Niagara Museum, celebrating the Brig Niagara, which docks just outside the museum, and host to shipbuilding classes for students. We have a newly refurbished Public Dock with a wonderful Bicentennial Tower at the end where you can see most of the city, all of the Bay, and Presque Isle State Park from the top. It's only a couple of dollars to access it, and the view is worth it! You can take an elevator to the top, or climb the stairway. Myself, I prefer the elevator. And Griswold Plaza is now surrounded by Junior's Last Laugh Comedy Club and restaurants and micro-breweries. In the summer, the Plaza is host to a wonderful and varied Farmer's Market.

For those who like to party, during warmer weather there are Downtown Fridays, when the bars, restaurants and other businesses move out onto the sidewalks. You can hear every type of music as you walk up and down State Street, and smell every kind of cooking our culturally diverse city has available. Chinese, Greek, Italian...you name it, we've got it. And for a few days every August we celebrate our city with a festival downtown. No cheap thrill rides, but real downhome arts and crafts and cooking. State Street is closed off for several blocks for artists to create wonderful pictures right on the street. Music and dancing, face painting, climbing walls, you'll find something for everyone in the family to enjoy.

And then there are our seven miles of sandy beaches along Presque Isle State Park. There are beaches with shallow water for tiny tots, and others with waves and deeper water for the more adventurous. There are plenty of concession stands and restrooms with changing areas and water fountains. There are fishing piers, boat ramps, free lagoon pontoon boat tours, canoe, bicycle and surrey rentals. There is a paved trail, and numerous hiking trails through the heart of the peninsula. There is wildlife galore and the park is known as a birder's paradise, as it is located along the Atlantic Flyway migration route. Hundreds of species of birds to fly of over or stop to refuel, and many make Presque Isle their nesting area. Beavers, raccoons, foxes and coyotes, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, voles and mice and many other animals live on the park year round.

Besides fishing and swimming and nature watching, you can parasail over the bay, waterski and ride jetskis. Anything you can think of to do on the water, you can do either in the calmer waters of the Bay or out on Lake Erie itself. This year in March, we are having a Steelhead Fishing Tournament, and there are Bass Tournaments too. Lake Erie is famous for its walleye and perch fishing, as well. There are charter boats available for fishing, a water taxi to cross from the city to the peninsula, and maybe one will be crisscrossing Lake Erie soon between here and Canada. There are beautiful large boats to just take cruises along the bay or lake, for dinner and a romantic evening.

This year, we will proudly unveil the new Tom Ridge Nature Center at the head of the peninsula, with nature exhibits and information, classrooms and scientific study facilities. A large screen theater will be added too.

There are many motels, hotels and campgrounds. They are working now to build a new campground at the South Pier. For those who prefer indoor water sports there is the new Splash Lagoon out on I-90. At the head of the peninsula is Waldemeer Park and Waterworld, a favorite spot for families and company picnics. And don't forget the Erie Zoo, with its brand new Children's Zoo. New exhibits feature African and Asian animals (including a baby orangutan), and our very own pair of endangered breeding Amur Leopards. Our huge rhinos have to be seen to be believed. My girls love the tigers, lions and cheetah, but then again, they are cat lovers.

If you live anywhere within the area and you haven't been here yet, you don't know what you're missing! So come on up and stay for a day or for a week or two. You don't have to go to some exotic place when we're right here in your own backyard!


To learn more, check my blog at www.naturesways.blogspot.com or
visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us and click on Presque Isle State Park.

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