WEST CARROLLTON — A whitewater park and community gathering space planned by West Carrollton is expected to stimulate economic development for the city and the entire footprint of the Great Miami River.
The $7.5 million proposed project along the riverfront would include a 900-foot whitewater channel around the South Montgomery Low Dam, competition level whitewater features for kayaks and wave surfing, and safety modifications aimed at improving safety, use and access to the river.
Area officials say the project will enable the Dayton region to compete to host whitewater competitions and events, bringing out-of-town and out-of-state whitewater enthusiasts to West Carrollton and the Dayton region, officials said.
“We want to use this as a centerpiece for our Exit 47 redevelopment,” said Mike Lucking, West Carrollton’s economic development director. “This would be one attraction that would bring people to the West Carrollton community ... to use this type of feature. It will not only bring people from in and around Dayton, but it will bring people specifically here from good distances. It’s quite popular.”
The proposed project would be part of more than $70 million in private sector development along the Great Miami River at the Interstate 75 West Carrollton interchange, activity that is leading to the creation of 500 jobs over a 5- to 7-year build-out.
“Our hope is that we will have amenities, like restaurants, that people will be able to access from those docks, and that would be up in the area that we’re planning for redevelopment up along Dixie Drive, right adjacent to the highway,” Lucking said.
The project also will provide safety enhancements to the South Montgomery Dam, including re-establishment of a small craft dock and marina area, benefiting those that use that segment of the river for recreational boating, floating and paddling.
West Carrollton has pledged $1.5 million to the $7.5 million project and is requesting the remaining $6 million be lobbied for through the Dayton Region Priority Development & Advocacy Committee set up by the Dayton Development Coalition. Creation of the whitewater channel and park is estimated to cost $5.2 million, while dam hazard reduction and creation of the dock and marina are estimated to cost $1.8 million and $500,000, respectively.
The project is the next phase in a long-range plan that has occurred over the last 10-plus years. West Carrollton has established a Tax Increment Financing district for the project area, one that covers the 21 acres that the city has acquired for the project and has executed a TIF agreement with the West Carrollton School District.
Lucking said the city would like to make some type of announcement about the project sometime during the first quarter of this year and could see construction activity in and around the Exit 47 area by spring 2023.
Entities submitting letters of support for the project include Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau, Five Rivers Metroparks, Great Miami Riverway, the Montgomery County Commission, the city of Moraine and South Metro Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“Riverfront amenities are proven catalysts for development, and this project can drive the reinvestment and revitalization of the riverfront of the City of West Carrollton,” said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO for Dayton CVB. “Funding for, and construction of this project would not only provide an amenity that would spur West Carrollton’s riverfront development, it has the potential to increase tourism by bringing out-of-town and out-of-state visitors to the area and enables the Greater Dayton region the potential to host whitewater kayak competitions and events.”
The improvements are among the final steps in a multi-agency effort to rid Montgomery County of “dangerously low dams” and open the rivers to paddling, according to Carrie Scarff, chief of planning and project at Five Rivers Metroparks.
“Low dams to the north on the Great Miami River have been removed within the last five years in downtown Dayton and at Tait Station,” Scarff said. “In that time, paddling along that stretch of the Great Miami River has increased significantly, and new markets in outdoor recreation are opening in standup paddleboarding and river surfing. This next step in opening our rivers will allow paddlers to continue south through West Carrollton to Miamisburg.”
Scarff said the project proposes additional amenities not found in other river improvements in the region: a course to attract regional and national competitions.
Dan Foley, director of the Great Miami Riverway, said “West Carrollton is in an optimal geographic place, as much or more than any other Riverway community, to drive our regional outdoor recreation economy with a whitewater feature.”
“The outdoor feature will allow recreational paddler to pass through safely, something they cannot do now,” Foley said. “With the low dam recently removed north of West Carrollton at Tait Station, and the pending low-dam removal near the former Hutchings Station coal facility in Miamisburg, paddlers will be able to start in downtown Dayton and make it to Middletown before they see another dam. That will draw more people to each of these Riverway communities.”
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