The Dayton Rotary Club joined FiveRivers MetroParks , local elected officials from Dayton, Riverside and Montgomery County as well as members of the local press today for the grand opening and ribbon cutting for the Mad River Run at Eastwood MetroPark today.
Part conservation, part recreation, the Mad River Run includes a kayak and canoe whitewater feature in the Mad River, river access points, and an area for observing paddlers or just enjoying the river. Construction was funded in part by the Siebenthaler Centennial Project of the Rotary Club of Dayton, which ended up being a $100,000 donation.
“The Rotary Club of Dayton is excited to support this new destination for free, active outdoor recreation and place where everyone can connect with the Mad River,” said Greg Birkemeyer, president of the Rotary Club of Dayton. “Enhancing our river assets is critical to making the Miami Valley an even better place to live, work and play.
Rotarian David P. Williams so eloquently shared these words with the group before the actual ribbon cutting:
This is a story about going back to the future. It is a story about a community of people, and the rivers that continue to define and identify them after almost 220 years.
“The River” sits as the centerpiece of our community, even since its very founding. On April 1, 1796, when George Washington was President and Ohio was not yet a state, a group of 12 settlers known as “The Thompson Party” traveled by flat bottom boat up the Great Miami River from Cincinnati and landed at what is now the end of St. Clair Street.
Ohio became a state in 1803 and the City of Dayton was incorporated in 1805. In 1827, construction began on the Miami and Erie Canal, which would contribute significantly to Dayton’s economic growth during the 1800s. Riverscape sits astride the point where the canal and the river met.
As our community celebrated its first 100 years, railroads and a better highway system were proving to be a more efficient way of moving goods and the canal and the idea of a navigable waterway went into decline.
But nothing had ever been done about controlling the flood waters of the three major rivers and two large creeks that emptied into the basin where the City of Dayton sat.
Not until the catastrophic flood of 1913. When it was over, there were over 600 estimated dead with estimated property losses were over $200,000,000, in 1913 dollars.
The relief effort was staggering. Among those coming to the aid of their fellow citizens was a then small group of business men and community leaders in their very first year of existence, the Rotary Club of Dayton.
First, however, Rotary members had their own personal challenges to face. Family members in different parts of the City were cut off and unable to communicate with one another, including the Rotary Club’s first President, Scott Pierce, who had been informed that his only daughter, Charlotte, had drowned. It was several days until Pierce learned that Charlotte had survived the flood in the attic of fellow Rotarian R.L. Miller. In her later years Charlotte would retell the story of her ordeal, and the promises made in the attic, to her niece, Barbara Pierce Bush, First Lady of the United States, who regularly visited her aunt here in Dayton until Charlotte’s death in 1971.
Other Rotarian heroes during the flood included Doctor HH Herman, chief physician at the National Cash Register Company who organized and oversaw a team of 42 doctors and 74 nurses who cared for 1,700 people. Major Robert Hubler assumed military command of the City, feeding almost 21,000 people daily. And, of course, future Rotarian John Patterson took the lead in organizing the City’s relief efforts from his NCR headquarters.
Rotary International was itself but an 8 year old fledgling at the time of the flood, and the Dayton club was only number #47 on a list that has since grown to over 32,000 clubs worldwide. But the Great Dayton Flood marked the first official international act of humanitarian relief by the larger Rotary organization. By raising $5,000,000 in 1913 dollars, Rotary had found its humanitarian mission. That September, on behalf of a grateful Club and Community, Scott Pierce addressed the Rotary Convention in Buffalo and thanked those attending for their efforts in helping Dayton.
The flood gave way to flood control and the genius of Arthur Morgan, whose “hydraulic jump” helped pioneer modern day hydraulic engineering. Morgan was a frequent guest speaker at the Rotary Club, and employees of the Miami Conservancy District, including our own Bob Reemelin, have long been Club members.
In 1973, the Club pledged $27,000 to the River Corridor Committee of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce toward construction of the “Riverwalk” project. Committee Chair Horace “Huff” Huffman Jr. congratulated the Club on being the first service club to step forward to make the project a reality.
Rotarians were actively involved in the 1970s and 80s with management of water recreation along the River Corridor in the form of power boat racing, when Eastwood Lake became known as the “Hydrobowl”.
In 1983, the Club donated again to the River Walk project, this time to complete the one mile extension.
In the 2000’s, Dayton Rotary staged its Fit Fest festival at Riverscape for a number of years.
And now, we return to the River again, with today’s dedication of the “Legacy Launch”
So you see, like the settlers, the farmers, the industrialists, the aid and relief workers, the engineers, and the recreationists, we continue to come back to the River.
“We are coming to the edge
Running on the water
Coming through the fog
Your sons and daughters”
“Let the River Run
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation
Come, the New Jerusalem”
Photo’s by FiveRiver MetroParks