Region pushing Great Miami corridor

A wave of support continues to build behind efforts to turn a 99-mile stretch of the Great Miami River into a recreational development corridor.

In January, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to decide on the focus of its study of the river corridor, from Sidney in Shelby County to Fairfield in Butler County.

State officials joined local leaders representing 15 local governments and non-profits backing the regional effort at a December meeting with Corps planners.

“These communities want to work together,” said Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships for the Miami Conservancy District.

While waiting for the Corps study’s conclusions, expected in the fall, the regional coalition plans to continue joint efforts to promote the economic and recreational potential of the regional river corridor.

“We have this amazing river,” Hall said. “We need to let people know.”

Corps officials met on Dec. 11 at Memorial Hall in Dayton with representatives from stakeholders representing cities, counties, park districts and other non-profits, including the conservancy district.

Also on hand were officials from the Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“I think that they have a really good start and initiative,” said Douglas Leed, natural resources administrator for ODNR’s Division of Watercraft. “I’m hopeful that will continue to grow.”

Over the past decade, the number of canoe and kayak registrations in Ohio has more than doubled, to more than 100,000, according to state data.

“Obviously there’s an opportunity there,” Leed said.

The Division of Watercraft is charged with looking for opportunities to provide additional access to Ohio’s rivers and lakes for boaters. It offers grants for signs, maps and brochures depicting river trails. Another grant program would help fund plans to open up more access along the Great Miami, particularly those pointed out in the Corps study.

In addition to helping to fund the 50 percent local share of the $250,000 Corps study, communities and park districts along the corridor have joined the Ohio’s Great Corridor Association.

In March, Mike Knopp and Joe Jacobi, two officials involved in riverfront development in Oklahoma City, are to be keynote speakers at the annual River Summit at the University of Dayton. Oklahoma City has realized a $700 million return on investment of $54 million along the Oklahoma River, according to officials.

Local investment in the Great Miami corridor is already substantial and growing.

Dayton has already spent more than $38 million beautifying its riverfront. The James M. Cox Foundation, the charitable arm of Cox Enterprises and Cox Media Group Ohio that includes the Dayton Daily News, WHIO-TV, WHIO-AM/FM, Springfield News-Sun, Hamilton Journal-News and the Middletown Journal, contributed $1 million toward the $4 million Dayton River Run whitewater park project planned in downtown Dayton.

Other cities in the region, from Troy to Hamilton have another $30 million in plans for recreational development along the Great Miami.

“This is an economic driver,” Hall said, adding that marketing the river corridor will bring tourists, as well attract professionals to the area. “We have it. We just need to get the word out.”

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