A new regional coalition plans to step up its efforts in 2018 to promote the Great Miami River as a resource not only for water and play, but also as a driver for tourism and economic development for 16 communities up and down the 99-mile corridor.
“It is not just for recreation. It is also for cultural tourists. It’s for people who love to dine on the river. It’s for people who are going to festivals. ,” said Elizabeth Connor, who is coordinator of Great Miami Riverway, the branding, placemaking and way-finding effort.
By the end of the year, those launching kayaks in the river or pedaling bikes down a trail may find a dozen or more new kiosks along the river. The 9-feet-high kiosks made primarily of aluminum will provide locational information as well as highlight nearby attractions and upcoming destinations. About 50 sites have been identified for the kiosks that will be installed over the next several years.
Great Miami Riverway’s scope extends from Sidney to Hamilton and is a collaboration of 19 jurisdictions and organizations to help promote the waterway and its nearby amenities to both area communities and broader audiences.
The partners put up $1 million to see the effort through five years. The plan also includes a website.
“We want to be sure we are highlighting this as a destination for not just regional people, not just the state, but for people throughout the United States,” Connor told Montgomery County Commissioners during a presentation Tuesday.
Montgomery County attracted and funded a fifth of a $250,000 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2014 study of the river that helped lead to the initiative’s formalization last year as Great Miami Riverway. Other key events in the formation included University of Dayton’s first River Summit in 2008, the Ohio’s Great Corridor Association in 2010 and a 2015 Dayton Development Coalition Community Fly-In to Washington, D.C., that featured discussions about riverfront development with area lawmakers.
Communities along the riverway have invested more than $500 million in riverfront development during the past 10 years, according to the organization.
Seven of the cities — Dayton, Hamilton, Miamisburg, Middletown, Piqua, Troy and West Carrollton — have projects in the works or putting new riverfront plans together to leverage the natural resource.
“The river is our mountain. It’s our ocean,” said Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships at the Miami Conservancy District, the fiscal arm of the regional partnership. “We have something very special in our backyard.”
In November, Troy officials received the results of a riverfront study. More use of the area north of the river near the downtown was among the recommendations including the prospect of a northern river district.
Hamilton also embarked on a new master plan, gathering input in November. The River District Master Plan is being developed by W Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Brooklyn, N.Y., and should be completed within a couple months.
Dayton and Miamisburg have made millions of dollars in improvements to their downtown riverfront parks in recent years. So, too, has Middletown, where plans have been sluggish for a $1.1 million Bicentennial Commons River Center. Plans there are expected to move forward this year.