New kayak park opens in Dayton

A new fast water river recreation feature at Eastwood MetroPark drew 200 visitors from throughout southern Ohio to the official opening Monday.

Mad River Run, 1385 Harshman Road, is being promoted as helping to serve the region’s conservation and recreation needs. It offers fast-water thrills for kayaks and canoes along with deep water pools for fishing. A semi-circle of limestone steps on the riverbank allows boaters water access and observers a view of the action.

The engineered white water, created by building a stone and concrete, dam-like structure with two water passages, cost about $388,000. Construction was funded in part by a $100,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Dayton.

“Enhancing our river assets is critical to making the Miami Valley an even better place to live, work and play,” said Greg Birkemeyer, Rotary Club President. “Recovery work after Dayton’s great flood of 1913 was the first relief project for Rotary International, so this was the perfect project for the Rotary Club of Dayton.”

The Mad River Run will be a good starting point for a four-mile paddling trip from Eastwood to RiverScape MetroParks downtown. It’s popularity will be a good test for a much bigger project now in the permit approval stage. That project, called River Run at RiverScape, ia a $4 million water recreation project that could begin construction in downtown Dayton in the Great Miami River later this year.

The final permit needed to build it is in the approval phase with the Miami Conservancy District.

Mad River Run offers what are known as Class 3 rapids, the middle ground of rated fast water with 1 being a fairly gentle flow and 5 being downright dangerous for those with less experience and skill.

Five Rivers MetroParks designed and built the Run. Executive Director Becky Benná said it will enhance the Dayton area’s reputation for outdoor recreation.

“The Mad River Run is part of a renewed focus on rivers in our community, and this project accentuates a key river corridor that leads right into downtown,” she said. “Improving outdoor recreation opportunities is a key component in attracting and retaining the workforce that will power our regional economy.”

The Run was open to paddlers last year, but Monday was the big event. A dozen kayakers in short play boats performed tricks in the rapids, flipping around like fish catching air while others slid through rapids and shot downstream.

Isaac Goldstein, 16, visited with his short kayak from Cincinnati, accompanied by his mom. He already has four years of kayaking under his belt. “For Ohio, this is really great,” he said. “It’s a great way to be in the outdoors.”

Joy Stewart, 57, drove two hours from Somerset in Perry County, with her kayaking friend Steve Glade, 61. They’ll be visiting again soon. “This will be a kayaking Mecca,” Glade said.

Kelly Kingery, 51, drove in from Farmersville. “The thing I like most is you can come and park and get in the water. You don’t have to take a shuttle to get to the water,” she said.

The fishing opportunities have anglers eager to try the waters.

“It’s a place for anglers to seek fish pooled above and below the run,” Pete Ziehler of the National Association of Professional River Angler said. “This also enables fly anglers to hone their skills with the calmness of the waters.”

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