A favorite place for photographers, runners, lighthouse enthusiasts and families – Headlands Beach State Park has been part of Lake County from the very beginning. Lake Erie was originally much larger than it is today. People today won’t remember when an eastern outlet via the Niagara River drained the lake down to its current size or when swamp lands adjacent to the shores were once part of the lake itself. But the locals and beach lovers do know that Lake County- the smallest of Ohio’s counties- covering only 231 square miles, is trademarked by a one-mile-long natural sand beach. Originally known as Painesville Beach State Park, today’s Headlands State Beach Park is the largest in the state. The beach, swamp lands and nearby dunes to the West have remained from the time of Native Indians and frontiersmen, largely untouched. A nature preserve for wildlife, an idea that surfaced in 1951-1952, to preserve this lake jewel for future generations allows Headlands Beach to be a natural and picturesque site still today.
How did the beach come to be?
The state of Ohio began acquiring land in the Mentor, Painesville, Grand River and Fairport quadrant with the goal of creating a state park. The park opened in 1953, and was named Painesville Beach State Park. Renamed Headlands Beach State Park in 1955, the beach attracted thousands of visitors, much like it does today. By 1957, the park closed as waves and dangerous undertows carried too great a risk for swimmers so the locals swam in the creek that ran through before it too was closed.
The beach saw a renaissance in 1967 when a major capital improvement campaign began and the state park, now vastly improved, reopened. Park amenities available today include a 1 1/2 mile Buckeye hiking trail, a fishing trail open to sportsmen, a federal breakwater located at the far end of the beach and a lighthouse built in 1925 can be viewed up close. In addition to the beach, the natural areas such as Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve and Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve are located nearby.
To those who remember the Painesville Beach State Park of their youth, it is a part of your Lake County history. To those of us who only know 9601 Headlands Road as Headlands Beach State Park, you are now a part of Lake County’s evolving history. The summer still remains, to the visitors still to come, may you experience a new chapter in your history as you travel the roadways of Lake County Ohio to the beach.
Submitted by Dan Maxson
Community Media Blogger – The News-Herald
Volunteer – FHHS/ Fairport Harbor Lighthouse & Marine Museum
Docent / Curator – Old Stone Schoolhouse