If you’re no stranger to this blog, you’re probably familiar with the Last Dam Summer campaign that kicked off about a month ago. If not, the Cliff’s Notes version is that Five Rivers MetroParks is planning to remove the low dam near the Dayton Art Institute and install bank stabilization features along the Great Miami River that will pull double duty as kayak play areas. This is all part of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, which includes other totally cool projects like the Patterson Corridor improvements that will connect the Oregon District to RiverScape MetroPark and Fifth Third Field.”
“Sounds interesting, Ms. Beerbower, but I gotta ask, ‘what’s in it for me?'”
I’m very glad you asked that because you stand to receive benefits directly AND indirectly! No coupon required!
First, let’s explore the direct benefits. If you’re even the slightest bit intrigued by paddle sports, such as kayaking and canoeing, you’re going to love the 7-mile stretch of water trail you can explore once the low dam is removed. Low dams are dangerous to paddle sport enthusiasts because of the under current the flow creates, which sucks you in and keeps you underwater. Low dams are not part of the larger flood control structure, so let’s not even go there. (Plus I’m pretty sure the Miami Conservancy District would have words with us if we screwed up their anti-flood management system that’s been working for about a century now.)
“Hey wait a second, I don’t own a kayak, nor do I possess the skills required to navigate our region’s plentiful water trail system, even though it looks like a lot of fun. Now what’s in it for me?”
Another great question, friend. Now it’s my turn to ask a question — what are some of your favorite hang-out spots? What do you love about them? Any spots on that list qualify as a cool place for “people watching”? This concept of place making is just as important as an indirect benefit of the River Run project. People like to be where there are other people (generally speaking). If you’re hungry and you pull up to a street with two restaurants side-by-side that are indistinguishable from physical appearance, yet the parking lot of one restaurant is packed and the other is not, which restaurant do you choose? They must be doing something right at the first restaurant, otherwise, why would the parking lot be so crowded? The social creatures we are, popularity or even just the suggestion of broad social acceptance is enough to make us aspire to be like that person, or in that place. That’s the indirect benefit of creating an attractive place for people to hang out — more people will want to hang out!
Pull the scope up even higher, and the longer-term implications include new businesses, specifically retail and dining options, along the river corridor. What’s that old saying? “Wherever two or three are gathered…someone will try to sell them something?” OK, not exactly, but that’s the basic principle behind this if-you-built-it-they-will-come strategy.
The benefits aren’t restricted to us bipedal residents, either. Wildlife living in and around the river will enjoy nicer digs thanks to restoration efforts. Re-emergence of larger river-dwelling predators like great blue heron or otters is an indicator of a highly stable, healthy river.
“OK, I concede that the warm- and cold-blooded residents of Dayton could gain much from the River Run project, but I would feel more enthusiastic about it if I could be a direct beneficiary.”
What’s stopping you? Paddle sports are a fun and low-cost way to enjoy the abundance of waterways in our region. Save up some cash for the up-front costs, like the boat, a paddle and a life jacket. Beyond that, it’s up to you how intense you’d like to get. There are retailers like Whitewater Warehouse and Great Miami Outfitters who have the gear you need to get on the water. Five Rivers MetroParks can hook you up with paddle sport programs that will progress you from novice to river jockey in no time. Our retailer friends also have classes, so access to info is no excuse!
If that still seems too daunting, try getting your feet wet (guffaw!) by renting a kayak this Saturday. Kayak rentals are available from Ride the River Rentals at RiverScape MetroPark now through Labor Day. Kayaks are available Saturdays, and bike, tandem bike, kiddie trailer or roller blades may be rented Saturdays and Sundays. Plunk down a ten spot and try paddling around the Great Miami River for a half hour and see if you like it. There’s no better way to get a taste of the future of downtown Dayton than from your (slightly damp) seat on the river. One word of warning — there have been many land-lubbing skeptics converted to kayak junkies along the river’s mighty shores. But at least you’ll be in good company!
The project has raised $3.8 million in private funds, and now it’s your turn to give a dam. Give a dam because you care about safety. Give a dam because you love watching birds and beavers, or because you love to fish. Give a dam about creating a sense of place for Dayton residents and visitors to our fair city. Give a dam for economic growth from those visitors. Give a dam for outdoor recreation and living a healthy, active lifestyle. Whatever your reason you give a dam, be sure to give.
I’ll see you on the water!