More jobs, better recreational opportunities and improved water quality are goals for cities within the 99-mile Great Miami River corridor.
The corridor “is on the right path,” but needs revitalization in some areas and overall branding as a region, according to a study unveiled Friday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The study was released after a year-long, $250,000 effort to identify ecological and economic problems and opportunities along the river. It was funded by a federal grant that was matched by local river corridor stakeholders, including $50,000 each from Montgomery County and the Miami Conservancy District, as well as contributions from 10 municipalities.
“People are drawn to the river,” Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley said. “We have a lot of investments, and every community on the river has started investing in it. It benefits us to advocate together for development and investment in this great asset that we have.”
The study identified several physical challenges facing the river, including lack of facilities, low head dams that impact navigability, and the need for more overnight lodging. It also concluded that communities along the river lack a “strong, unified identity” as a one corridor.
But the study also identified areas of growing interest and investment, such as the extensive network of bike and water trails along the river, and new investment in riverfront parks.
“The study has really shown us the importance of having an overarching vision for the region,” said Rob Wile, vice mayor of Hamilton. “I think there have been a lot of pockets of success, but common branding of the corridor is core to taking it all to the next level.”
The cities along the corridor have missed out on economic benefits from tourism and recreation because of a lack of overnight accommodations and river access, the study indicated. But efforts are underway to capitalize on the water front.
Construction is set to begin this year on an underwater rock feature that will create whitewater rapids on the river close to downtown Dayton.
The city of Riverside also plans to create a new public park with boat ramps at the site of the former Entracht Singing Society property on the river bank. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently awarded $200,000 in funding for the project.
The city of West Carrollton is also planning to create a whitewater park to attract canoe and kayak enthusiasts.
“We’re so excited to know that the rest of the corridor community is behind us and we’re behind them in investing in the river,” Riverside Mayor Bill Flaute said.
The city of Troy plans to renovate its Treasure Island Park marina as well as improve trails along the water, Mayor Mike Beamish said.
“This study will be a springboard for all of us to move toward riverfront development,” he said. “It can be a regional incentive to bring a skilled workforce to our community and keep it here. We might not have the mountains and oceans, but we have a great river we can enhance to help build a workforce that wants to live, work and play in our region.”
The study found that many sections of the river meet or exceed state standards for water quality, but some areas are suffering from low oxygen levels, bacteria and sediment build-up. Montgomery County is working to eliminate some issues, but more needs to be done, Foley said.
“We’re removing a low dam, which will help improve the health of the river,” Foley said. “Those types of projects that improve the environment and the economic attractiveness are where we need to put our efforts.”