Commodore Steve Harris – November, 2012
Prior to 1983, BLYC’s real estate holdings consisted only of Watkins Island, the attached docks, and the small lot at the end of the footbridge. We had use of the parking lot only through an arrangement with our neighbor, Alice Rosebraugh (which required putting 50¢ for parking in a coffee can each time you drove in the lot). Without Alice, or had she sold the property to someone else, we would have been without parking. We also had no dry sail area, boat storage, or a hoist sufficiently large enough to launch boats. While BLYC was active and prosperous, the need to address these concerns was a constant part of the club’s long-range plan.
In March of 1983, the Board of Governors voted to purchase a piece of property on the towpath, east of BLYC. Over the years, this property had been the site of the Lake Breeze Hotel and Pier Ballroom, part of the amusement park, and, at the time the Club purchased it, home of the “Foxy Lady” bar and a few apartments. The acquisition of this property required using the Club’s investments in the Fire & Casualty Fund and, therefore, approval of the membership. As insurance coverage was both sufficient and affordable, the Board felt that moving these investments into real estate was in the Club’s best interest. Not only was real estate on the lake a good investment, but this property would give BLYC permanent access to the lakefront and room for future development and expansion. At the membership meeting, there was considerable opposition to using the fund, but in the end, approval was obtained and the purchase went forward.
Work on the property began almost immediately. That same September, our current hoist was installed for members to launch and work on their boats. The building that housed the bar was in disrepair and, after the tenant didn’t renew the lease, the Club decided that the costs of repairing the building were too great. On April 30, 1984, the building was used as a training fire for the Ohio Fire Academy and the work to repurpose the site for boat storage began. An 8’ security fence and lighting was installed and storage/drysail spots were made available to members for the cost of $75-$100 annually. The first member to rent a spot was Mac Wood, long time member and tireless volunteer at BLYC and father-in-law of our current Vice Commodore, Tim Ryan.
Commodore Foster’s June, 1983 Log article began with the simple statement, “Eastport is ours!” While Commodores Foster and Fisher negotiated the deal on behalf of the Club, it was initiated the year previous by 1982 Commodore Ed Ballenger. Ed’s foresight and leadership throughout was invaluable to the project. So much so that in Commodore Foster’s Log article announcing the purchase, he suggested that “the property could fairly be named Ballenger Park.” Ultimately though, it was named Eastport. Frank recollects that “well, it’s East of the Club and it’s a port, which is a quite nautical word.” Frank started using the name, and it stuck. He says, “It was easier than naming my children!” (Really, Frank? How hard was it to name your oldest son?)
One major shortcoming of the property, however, remained for years to come. After the heyday of Big Bands at the lake, the Pier Ballroom closed and was later used for the Dodge ‘Em Car ride at the park. Abandoned when the park closed in the late 1960’s, the Pier Ballroom later burned to the waterline in the early 70’s. This left many old piers in the water as significant hazards to navigation.
After many years of discussion and planning, in October of 2000, Governor Dan Knaul announced that the Board and Trustees had approved the construction of 38 new docks to be located at Eastport. This project required far more than just building docks, however. All of the old piers left from the fire that had been “prop-killers” for years had to be removed first. The contract was let to P/C Frank Foster, IV and thanks to his creativity and skill, literally hundreds of piers (and three Dodge ‘Em Cars) were removed. The new docks, wider and longer than those on Watkins Island to accommodate newer boat designs, were dedicated Memorial Day Weekend of 2001 by our Fleet Chaplain, Fr. Mike Gribble, and Commodore Nick Desantis.
Over the years, this fine facility, along with the Rosebraugh property purchased in 1989, have certainly benefitted the Club. We now have new docks, storage, a drysail area, sufficient parking, and a home for the BLYC Junior Sailing program. Thanks to this facility, we’ve also been able to host several large sailing events such as the 1992 and 2011 Interlake National Championships, the Lightning Ohio District Championships, and I-LYA Junior Regattas. It’s also a great place to work on your boat and just hang out with friends. Meet me for a beer in Ballenger Park this weekend?
More information on the purchase of both Eastport and the Rosebraugh property can be found in the 2006 Centennial History book available at the Club.