|Harmon's Beach today|
was another one of those places – like Lakeview Park and Hole-in-the-Wall – that attracted lots of young people from Lorain and the surrounding areas, back in the days when it was a public beach.
It made the news in August and September 1970, thanks to some rowdy kids causing concerns for nearby residents.
The article below by Staff Writer Tom Oney appeared in the Journal on August 16, 1970.
Property Owners Petition City Hall
Should Harmon Beach Be Closed?
By TOM ONEY, Staff Writer
SAM PECORA says people are dirtying up Harmon Beach in Lorain and he wants it closed. He is among 29 people to petition City Hall to shut down the beach.
Many of his neighbors believe the beach “belongs to God” and want it open for the neighborhood and the many families throughout the city that use it.
The sandy beach is at the foot of Ashland Avenue in west Lorain. The people who swim there say it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the city – even if it is only 50 feet wide.
It is one of four public beaches in Lorain.
Pecora and his wife built a lovely ranch style house 17 years ago on the 50-foot lot beside the 50-foot beach access. They raised their five children beside it, but now want the beach closed. They, along with other “taxpaying property owners” say it’s a threat to their very safety, privacy and peace of mind.
A petition, containing signatures from 29 people living in 17 homes in the area, was recently sent to City Hall and stated, “the beach condition is deplorable and disruptive of the peaceful and ordinary use of the property by the owners. We have evidence of glue sniffing, sex acts during the daylight hours and after dark, wild parties and loose dogs. It is really embarrassing to entertain company in our backyards due to the obscene language and vulgar actions.”
OTHER NEIGHBORHOOD people and other residents throughout the city plan to protest the petition.
“I certainly hope they do not close it,” said Mrs. Nancy LaForce, 1138 11th St., Lorain. She is a fourth grade teacher at Fairhome and says she “tries to come to the beach every day.”
“It’s lovely down here. The water is beautiful. You can’t beat this in Lorain,” said Mrs. LaForce.
Another swimmer on the beach, Walter Riegel, 44, 1603 12th St., Lorain, said he has been coming to the beach since he was four years old.
“I’ve been bringing neighborhood kids here with my four children for the past 16 years,” he said. “For an unsupervised piece of property, you can’t beat this,” he said and strolled into the water with two children.
SAM PECORA has a different point of view – that of a homeowner – only a few feet from where several hundred children and adults who walk from their cars, parked on the narrow street, past his house to the beach.
“There are no toilet facilities, no place to change clothes, no lifeguard, no one to pickup the trash and no patrol,” he said.
“It’s something everyday and everyday,” said his wife.
The Pecoras’ home fills their lot and they spend much of their time on a rear patio facing the lake, the beach and the swimmers several feet away from the path to the beach.
“They walk past and swear at us. They bring beer and wine to the beach to defy us and last week we saw a young girl completely stripped by a kid on that bank,” he said, pointing to the edge of the lawn, part of the path to the beach.
“The police cooperation has been damn good,” he said, but added, “Last weekend about 30 kids were running through the lawns, knocking on doors and saying they were going to cut a kid’s head off wth a hatchet. It’s just got to the point now it's completely out of hand.”
BUT OTHER neighbors deny many of these charges and others charge Pecora just wants the beach himself if it is closed. Still others, who do not live in the neighborhood, say they have seen no daylight escapades as described by Pecora.
“He (Pecora) talks about savages down there and I think he’s making a savage environment for those who want to use the beach,” said Ken Jones of 935 W. 21st St., Lorain, who used to live on the lakefront near Pecora.
“He’s got a fence down there – half inch steel cables – that is coated with heavy grease. If you touch it or throw a towel against it, it won’t come off,” he said.
Pecora says he puts grease on the cables to keep “them from rusting.”
“They (Pecoras) have filled in the beach access with dirt and planted grass and shrubs – leaving only a six foot path, not 50 feet, to the beach,” said Riegel. “They used to stand on their back patios with a megaphone and take turns yelling at the kids,” he said. “I don’t blame them for their attitude, but this beach has been here longer than their house. It’s one of the oldest beaches in Lorain.”
“THE MAIN trouble is after dark,” said Mrs. LaForce. “When I come down here, I see bottles on the beach, but I’ve never seen anyone drinking down here during the day. If the city would make sure it would be closed after dark, that would end many of their troubles,” she said.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Mrs. Marie Koppenhafer, who lives across the street from the Pecoras. “I don’t think it should be closed. This block to the east of them is for it being open and the block to the west want it closed. To close it would be a crime,” she said.
“I bring my grandchildren down and I’ve heard this woman (Mrs. Pecora) complaining,” said Mrs. Nancy Preston of 1218 Westwood Dr., Lorain. “I spent a lot of my life in Florida and the beaches there are for the people. Say that, for the people,” she stressed. “It should be that way here, too.”
ANOTHER RESIDENT, who lives on the west of the beach, said he didn’t sign the petition.
“If you shut it off, you will create law breakers and more problems for other property owners,” said William Stark, 1365 2nd St., Lorain.
“I feel it should be patrolled by proper policing,” he said. “I feel the present legislation City Council has enacted (11 p.m. curfew) has been adequate, but it does need work.”
“In no case would a lifeguard have saved any of the people who drowned down there. I won’t permit my kids to go to Lakeview Park swimming because that’s more of a threat to me than this,” he said.
But on the flip side of the coin, Pecora and the other petitioners, feel their safety threatened with beach activities and gangs.
THE NEXT FIVE houses on that side of the beach are either widows or divorcees, he said. “They are scared to death. They have seen the activity and are afraid to yell at the kids because they might [sic] with them that night.”
James King of 1312 2nd St., has lived in his house for 23 years. Several years ago he was deputized by the city on a voluntary basis to patrol the beach.
“I wouldn’t take that job now even if they paid me,” he said. “I don’t think anyone else in Lorain would want to live here and put up with what we do.”
King said that most of the activity on the beach takes place at night.
“I WOULDN’T go down there at night. I’d be taking my life into my own hands,” he said. “We’ve looked the other way for a number of years, but we can’t any longer.” He said his garage and property has been vandalized and boats stolen during the night.
Police Chief John Malinovsky said he has had complaints "about the noise from certain people. But most of our complaints are in the evening hours. With the night activities at the beach, we certainly can take care of that by enforcing the curfew now in effect,” he said.
“I’m sure the traffic down there is nothing what it used to be when I was a kid and the lake was clean,” he added.
Not quite a month later, the Journal did a follow-up article about Harmon's Beach. The article below appeared in the paper on September 11, 1970.
Harmon’s Beach: Should Lorain Close It to Public?
By TOM McPHEETERS, Staff Writer
TO A MAN, woman and teenager, residents of the Harmon’s Beach area agree that they have a problem with rowdy people using the beach. What they don’t agree on is whether the problem is any worse than when they were kids, and what should be done about it now.
Lorain City Council’s Building and Lands Committee listened last night to an hour’s arguments on a petition to close Ashland Avenue north of Second Street, and decided to ask for full reports within two weeks from the Police Department, the Park Department, the Port Authority and City Solicitor John Hritsko.
Police Lieutenant George Malden spoke for Chief John Malinovsky: “He is quite concerned. But he doesn’t feel the conditions are as bad as are being painted.”
Malden noted that only a few feet of Lake Erie beach remains open to the public and that Malinovsky “hates to be in a position to deny the beach to the general public. He would not like to see this street closed. If there is a problem, then the police should be called immediately.”
Malden admitted that the department is now sending extra patrols to check the beach, and that this does not seem to be eliminating the complaints, but stressed that often people fail to call the police until too late. It is not true that people with complaints about illegal behavior have to swear out a warrant if the offender is on private property, he said.
“THE POLICE have done a wonderful job,” said Mrs. Sam Pecora, 1350 Second Street. “But it’s gotten to the point now where we’d have to have a full-time policeman down there.”
In a low, hesitant voice, Mrs. Pecora told how she and her late husband, who initiated the petition, tried to “keep law and order” on the beach for 17 years, often giving first aid and shelter to people who came to their door.
“I think in the last three years, you really can’t talk to them any more. It has gotten to the point where we had to sign the petition.”
She and a neighbor, Mrs. Dean E. Buchanan, 1362 Second Street, told of the fear of elderly persons in the neighborhood, of loud, obscene language late at night, of “sex acts day and night,” of the danger of swimming off the break wall, and of the hazard of power boats using the area for water skiing. They presented councilmen with glue-sniffing apparatus as evidence of that kind of activity.
KENNETH JONES, 1303 Fifth Street, pointed out that to effectively close off access to the beach Lorain would also have to close Brownell Avenue north of Second Street. “And even if you do this, I don’t think you are going to do anything. You are still going to have people using the beach,” he argued.
“I don’t know about politics, but I think it is time to stop denying things to people and try to make things better. Try and stop these atrocities.”
Several teenagers were in the audience. Debbie Wedo, 1129 Fifth Street, agreed there is a problem. “Kids today are a heck of a lot different than they were 20 or 30 years ago,” she said. “I know, and I’m ashamed sometimes.”
Mrs. Betty Burton, 1320 Second Street, showed pictures of the beach to back her argument that conditions are exaggerated by the people who want to close it. When James King, 1312 Second Street, told the committee that “you couldn’t pay me enough” to continue as a special policeman for the area, Mrs. Burton replied:
“And yet your wife and children go and use it. I can’t understand it.”
Roger Doane, chairman of the Lorain Port Authority, as well as an area resident, warned that Lorain may face legal complications if it tries to close the street because the right-of-way is used by the U.S. Coast Guard to reach cables serving the lighthouse.
Ultimately, the decision was by Lorain City Council made to close the beach. Here’s the Journal’s editorial from April 20, 1972.
|The former access to Harmon’s Beach, now barricaded|