DAYTON — More than 180 officials from communities along the Great Miami River met Friday for the Great Miami Riverway Summit at the Dayton Art Institute. Mayor Mike Barhorst, Fourth Ward Councilmember Steve Wagner, City Manager Mark Cundiff, Director of Parks and Recreation Duane Gaier and Sidney Visitor’s Bureau Director Jeff Raible attended the conference representing the City of Sidney.
Officials representing Sidney, Piqua, Troy, Dayton, West Carrollton, Miamisburg, Franklin, Middletown and Hamilton addressed attendees. Mayor Barhorst provided a brief update on river-related activities in Sidney over the course of the past year.
“Council adopted the revised Comprehensive Plan which promotes access to the river, improved pedestrian connectivity to the City’s amenities, encourages becoming a more bicycle friendly community and improved way finding,” Barhorst told those in attendance.
“We paved and dedicated Phase III of the Great Miami River Recreational Trail as part of the regional celebration of National Trails Day,” Barhorst said, “and we continue to seek financial partners to assist with the $1.2M cost of Phase IV of the Great Miami River Recreational Trail.
“Council helped to establish and is the largest funder of Sidney Alive, a downtown advocacy organization, to help develop way finding standards, promote downtown businesses and advance the historic features of Sidney,” Barhorst said. “We continue to work to find ways to connect our 230 acre Tawawa Park and the downtown with the Great Miami River Recreational Trail.
“We continue to participate in the Clean Sweep of the Great Miami River,” Barhorst said, ”and we continue to help plan for Shelby County’s Bicentennial celebration in 2019, and for Sidney’s Bicentennial Celebration in 2020.”
Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds told those in attendance that “the Riverfront Development Strategy was completed in 2013 and defined for us the path forward for developing vision, which includes plans for the development of Lock 9 Park, which is located at the edge of downtown Piqua along the banks of the Great Miami River.”
“This redevelopment includes a signature public space, and the revitalization of the former Miami & Erie Canal into a pedestrian/bike friendly artisan alley leading the users of the local trail system and the 340 miles of paved trails in southwest Ohio right into the heart of downtown Piqua,” Hinds stated.
Hinds also spoke about various Piqua events, including the riverfront summer concert series (Rock Piqua!), the Down a River, Down a Beer event that includes 99 kinds of beer, the run/walk events sponsored by Can’t Stop Running, a company located in downtown Piqua, and numerous other events that take place along the riverfront..
Troy Director of Public Safety and Service Patrick Titterington noted that Troy’s “2013 Gentlemen of the Road festival experience showed our community that we can successfully pull off large scale initiatives.”
Titterington went on to note that a seasonal pop-up food truck, concert and happy hour gathering place was once such idea. He also spoke about the community’s Complete Streets Policy that would include bike trails and bike lanes through the downtown historic district.
“Our goal is to enhance the connection between our downtown and the recreational trail,” Titterington said. “As a result, we have committed to a 10-year plan to completely redesign the look and feel of our corridor, with new public infrastructure, events, features and private development.”
Titterington also spoke about the city’s $2 million investment in a new clubhouse and driving range at Miami Shores Golf Course, Kettering Health Network’s $60 million investment in the new hospital in downtown Troy that would result in a new full-service emergency room and 120 additional professional jobs, and the development of new luxury residential units that will be constructed along Water Street in the downtown.
Great Miami Riverway Coordinator Elizabeth Connor detailed the changes that have taken place over the course of the past eleven years. “Today is the first Great Miami Riverway Summit, but it is also the 11th River Summit. We have changed our name, added staff and a brand, and we have come a long way since those first conversations.”
Connor noted that when she began doing research on the perceptions of the Great Miami River, she looked at articles that had been written about the river over the course of the past eleven years. “In 2008, I found three articles on the Great Miami River. All three articles were negative.”
She skipped ahead to 2011, when she found four articles. In an article entitled “Backroads and BBQ: Detroit to Atlanta in a Porsche 911 Turbo” printed in Automobile Magazine, Connor read the portion of the article that mentioned the Great Miami River. “Getting through the cold, gray wasteland that is Ohio is our only chore. ‘Where are we?’ asks my traveling companion, as we approach industrial Dayton on the Great Miami River. ‘It’s depressing.’”
She then noted that in 2017, “there were more positive articles on the Great Miami River last year than there are people in this room. We’ve already received more positive Riverway coverage in 2018 than the entire year of 2017 and that deserves a round of applause.”
Connor also noted that the Great Miami Riverway includes the National Aviation Heritage Area, the National Recreation Trail, US Bicycle Route 50, the North Country Trail, and the National Water Trail. “Our area also includes USA Today’s favorite steakhouse (Dayton’s Pine Club), one of the Top Ten Auto Museums in the United States (Dayton’s Packard Museum), and a National Top 10 Bourbon Bar (the Century Bar in Dayton). She also mentioned riding a canal boat at the Johnston Farm in Piqua, Sidney’s restoration of the only known remaining Zenas King bridge, and numerous other sites along the Great Miami River.
Sidney Visitor’s Bureau Director Jeff Raible was part of a panel discussion that included tourism professionals from along the Great Miami River. Each of the panelists answered questions posed by the moderator detailing how the Riverway impacts the regional economy.
At the conclusion of the event, walking tours of the new riverfront park being planned for Dayton were offered, as were tours of the Art Museum. The Dayton Art Institute and the city of Middletown were sponsors of the event.