Happy birthday, Presque Isle State Park!

Happy birthday, Presque Isle State Park!

While Presque Isle’s history can be traced 11,000 years ago, this gem that juts into Lake Erie was officially dedicated as a state park of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania 100 years ago today — May 27, 1921.

It was the foresight of Erie area residents to preserve and protect the peninsula as a state park.

In French, “Presque Isle” means “almost an island.”

Over time, the peninsula has actually become an island when lake waters rose, later returning to its status as a peninsula.

Pennsylvania state park officials estimate that at least four times since 1819, Presque Isle has been an island.

It apparently cost local residents $75,000 for the peninsula to become a state park, according to historical Eugene Ware. He estimates that the price — as of 2019 — would equate to $950,000.

The peninsula was a crucial part of the War of 1812. While the Battle of Lake Erie was fought off the shores of present day Ohio, Oliver Hazard Perry used the Erie harbor to build six of the ships used in the battle.

Perry is honored with Perry Monument, built near what’s known as Misery Bay and Graveyard Pond — named after the hardships the crew endured.

Prior to the War of 1812, the Erielhonan tribe, which dates to before the 1650s, lived along the lakeshore, including Presque Isle.

But it was the years post-War of 1812 that appear to be most heavily documented.

Presque Isle is home to two lighthouses.

North Pier lighthouse was built in 1858 at the end of the channel leading into the bay. That wooden lighthouse was later replaced by once from France after the original one was destroyed.

Presque Isle Lighthouse was built in 1872 and lit a year later. It now is part of a partnership with a nonprofit group that welcomes tours into the former residence.

Just three years after state park status, the peninsula’s road system was built. Presque Isle boasts a 13-mile road loop. In the 1980s, a bike lane was added.

Presque Isle State Park welcomes thousands of visitors each year. And while it’s known for its sandy beaches in the summer sun, the peninsula allows for activities throughout the year thanks in part to the diverse climate. The park is also home to many species of birds and other animals — some of which are not seen anywhere else in the state.

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