The 2017 International Trails Symposium is coming to Dayton May 7 to 10, investing what organizers expect will be $1 million into the region and showcasing what a Five Rivers MetroParks director calls “the outdoor adventure capital of the Midwest.”
The American Trails bi-annual symposium was attracted to Dayton by what Janet Bly, Miami Conservancy District general manager, called the nation’s largest network of paved outdoor trails.
About 500 visitors from 42 states, Washington, D.C., and 11 countries are expected at the symposium, which will feature paid workshops and classes, as well as free recreation, indoors and out. (For a full schedule, or to register for events, visit americantrails.org.)
What unites those coming to Dayton is more than love of the outdoors, Bly said.
“Some of it is love of the environment,” she said. “They see the economic impact of trails and are really trying to promote that in their own communities. And they’re wanting to see what other communities have done.”
Mike Passo, executive director of American Trails, said he and fellow organization leaders liked what they found when they visited the area in November 2016.
He said they found the region and its assets “compelling,” citing in particular what Passo called “an amazing trail system” — with more than 300 miles of interconnected trails, rivers, connections to the trail systems of other cities and more.
“It’s really quite amazing,” Passo said in an interview Friday. “There are activities and energy being put into the (Miami Valley) trail system here that just aren’t happening in other parts of the country.”
But Dayton offered something beyond outdoor assets, trails and waterways that other cities don’t have, he said: Persistence by proponents of Dayton. Passo in particular mentioned Amy Dingle — Five Rivers MetroParks director of outdoor connections.
Said Passo: “They just wouldn’t take ‘No’ for an answer.”
Dingle and Bly said they began making their case for Dayton to the American Trail board in 2015, when the symposium was held in Portland.
Board members were surprised at what they heard, the women said. Then they were intrigued. The area’s aviation heritage sites also were a draw.
“The story really goes back to 2008 and maybe 2006,” Dingle said. “It became really a dream of MetroParks. When we were starting to go into the economic recession, losing all the manufacturing … We said, ‘Wow, we have all these amazing amenities that we need to let the public know we have.’”
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