Cities view Pittsburgh as model for riverfront growth

Cities along the 80-mile Great Miami River corridor now have a model to follow in their quest to fund millions of dollars in projects to draw residents and tourists to the riverfront.

A program in the Pittsburgh region has pulled together cities and towns to create a successful recreational and tourist draw along the Monongahela River, local officials said Friday at the 2013 River Summit at the University of Dayton.

The idea of a coordinated redevelopment of riverfronts from Piqua to at least south of Hamilton has been under discussion since early 2012 by cities along the river. They formed the nonprofit Ohio’s Great Corridor Association.

Also involved are Five Rivers MetroParks, the Miami Conservancy District, Dayton Canoe Club and Miami County Park District.

Plans include the Treasure Island marina in Troy, Dayton’s downtown Riverscape River Run recreation park and a riverfront park in Miamisburg. Officials say that riverfront development can lure and retain young professionals and draw recreational tourists and their families to the area.

Keynote speaker at the summit was Jeff Malik of the Student Conservation Association’s River Town and Trail Town Outreach Corps., in Pittsburgh.

The programs coordinated by the Student Conservation Association, a national group, work with state nonprofit partners to advocate and promote the river corridor, Malik said.

It’s about building brands, strategies and concepts based on unique historical heritage and coming up with attractive signage to draw tourists and recreational river and trail users. A detailed map and guide shows off the “Great Allegheny Passage” and connecting trails.

About 750,000 bicyclists use a trail the group promotes. Hopes are that the figure will rise to 1 million soon. In the five years the Conservation Association has been at work, bicycle shops, bed and breakfast businesses and many other retailers have seen big economic benefits, Malik said.

Dayton city commissioner Nan Whaley said an application is being prepared to have the Great Miami corridor formally recognized by the Army Corps of Engineers, a step that could lead to federal development funding.

Miamisburg Mayor Richard Church, Jr., said river plans are central to the city. “We look at riverfront development as the future for the city of Miamisburg,” he said.

Hamilton city council member Kathy Klink spoke of redeveloping the site of Smart Papers, a 47-acre stretch along the river. She said there’s a need to crack down on littering, which doesn’t help the attractiveness of the river corridor.

“We are going to cite people for littering – on the river and on the streets,” she said.

The river has environmental challenges. An assessment by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency released in 2012 of the upper Great Miami said water quality issues include runoff from farm fields, home sewage systems, and livestock with access to streams.

The summit also saw the unveiling of the RiverMobile, a University of Dayton Rivers Institute education vehicle with exhibits about the Great Miami River Watershed that will travel to local schools. There are displays on the Great Flood of 1913 with riveting historic photographs, detailed explanations of the underground Great Miami Aquifer, and explorations of the river’s ecosystem.

The exhibits are geared for youngsters from Grades 6 to 8 and will begin touring in the fall. The Mobile will be at the Dayton Art Institute next week for members of the public to climb aboard, said Alexander Galluzzo of the Rivers Institute.

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