Destination PA: Presque Isle State Park

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WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS — It’s by far the most popular attraction in Erie and has been for generations. This year Presque Isle is celebrating 100 years as a state park. But as two local authors discovered, getting here was not an easy journey.

The winds and waves shape and reshape Presque Isle accomplices in a process that’s gone on for thousands of years. More recently, man has jumped in. Sometimes with plans that would have changed everything.

“The most dramatic of which was when we were about to give it away so they could put up a steel mill. Can you imagine? We came this close to letting that happen,” recalled author David Frew.

That’s just one story in a new book by David Frew and Jerry Skrypzak. “Accidental Paradise” looks at Presque Isle’s evolution over 13,000 years. At one point, that included debate over whether it should be allowed to wash away.

“How many times they made efforts to restore the beaches, to add break walls. I mean, it was an island for over 50 years and you look at all that and you wonder… It’s amazing it’s still here,” said Skrypzak.

The transition to a playground attracting four million people a year turned the peninsula into a huge part of the region’s economy. But that actually began well before it’s fate as a park had been decided.

When asked, “We owe Erie to Presque Isle, don’t we?” “We do absolutely. No Presque Isle, no Erie. No harbor, no Erie. No Presque Isle, no harbor,” Frew told us.

Owing that kind of debt, Frew and Skrpzak hope “Accidental Paradise” creates respect for the part of Presque Isle’s story that has not yet been written.

I hope it brings people’s attention, looking at the history, looking at the past to see it’s possible the whole thing could disappear,” Skrypzak said.

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