With a swing of ceremonial canoe paddles emblazoned with the RiverScape at River Run logo, more than a dozen local officials kicked off construction of the Great Miami River recreational project.
By August, the river level should start to descend and the heavy work can begin on the long-awaited $4 million, year-long revamping of the downtown river corridor.
By the time it finishes, the dangerous Monument Avenue low dam, built in 1978, will be transformed into a much safer fast-water kayak and canoe recreation feature. Limestone boulders will top the dam’s foundation and a similar limestone boulder structure will also stretch from riverbank to riverbank upriver at RiverScape.
Besides transforming the Great Miami into a powerful regional draw for boaters, it will blend recreation with environmental and safety advantages - and remove the hazardous low dam.
It took years for the project to reach fruition. First discussed in the late 1990s, it went through various designs and redesigns and cost estimates.
The concept and funding finally gelled with the donation in 2011 by the James M. Cox Foundation of a $1 million challenge grant toward the construction effort. Alex Taylor, executive vice president of Cox Enterprises which includes this newspaper, committed to resolving the safety issue on the river. He is the great-grandson of the late Gov. James M. Cox.
Taylor is a recreational paddler and fly fisher who wrote a book about fishing. He pursued the grant with the family foundation.
“Alex Taylor felt it was environmental and would be fun and lively,” said Julia Wallace, market vice president of Cox Media Group Ohio. “It’s so important to bring people downtown, to bring downtown back and make it a great hub.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said that despite a light rain, “it’s a perfect day in Dayton. Thank you for investing in Dayton’s greatest asset, downtown and the Dayton riverfront.”
With the $1 challenge grant, funds from private individuals, corporations and public institutions flowed. Donations came from CareSource, Greater Dayton RTA, Sinclair Community College, law firm Thompson Hine, the Miami Conservancy District, Montgomery County, The Dayton Foundation, PNC Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Premier Health Partners, Vectren, DP&L, the Zorniger Foundation and Kettering Health Network and from the state of Ohio.
A colorful mural was unveiled that will be painted on what is now a bare concrete flood wall stretching from Riverside Drive to the Main Street Bridge. It depicts kayaking, biking and other river recreation.
“This effort will allow folks who want to play in the river and also those who don’t to play around the river,” Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley said.
The low dam has no flood control purpose, so its re-engineering will have no affect on flood control.