- Debbie Juniewicz Contributing Writer
Whether it’s a peaceful, relaxing journey or an adrenaline-inducing adventure, the Dayton area offers paddlers a variety of experiences.
The recently-completed RiverScape River Run offers both with the addition of two passageways – one a smooth-water channel for novice paddlers and, the other, a whitewater play feature for more experienced paddlers. All of this in the middle of downtown Dayton.
“The lowdam area, near the Dayton Art Institute, has now been made safer and people can paddle much longer distances,” said Erik Dahlstrom, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator. “And some people want to step up and go through bigger waves and get some whitewater practice and they can do that here, too.”
While the project enhances the dynamic downtown scene, the benefits of the River Run project extend beyond the metro Dayton area and include improving water quality and aquatic habitat and strengthening the area’s reputation as the Outdoor Adventure Capitol of the Midwest. The area was already home to Mad River Run at Eastwood MetroPark and the ECO Sports Corridor in Springfield.
“I run into people at our whitewater features who come here from all around the state,” Dahlstrom said.
So, what is the impact of recreation amenities like River Run and what does it offer paddlers? Local experts weigh in.
First, the river is safer because of removing the hazardous hydraulic from the low head dam in downtown Dayton and creating passage through the low dam.
I have already seen an anecdotal impact on Facebook and meetup sites with lots of chatter about the whitewater features, including private paddlers coming here from outside the region to play in the features, local paddlers getting out regularly, as well as an increase from colleges and universities, clubs, etc. coming here to do classes in the whitewater features on river running and river rescue. This means more people coming to the region to paddle and these are people who are going to look for places to eat, places to buy paddling equipment, places to camp, etc. I believe strongly that these features will bring more people downtown and bring even more people back to the river that has been hidden for so long. It’s really amazing to see how many people come to Eastwood MetroPark just to watch the water at the Mad River whitewater feature, and I believe we will see the same at RiverScape MetroPark.
As a paddler, these whitewater features create an opportunity to hone my skills and learn new skills locally without having to drive three or more hours to get my whitewater fix. I also really enjoy paddling outside of the region on a variety of rivers, so having these amenities in my hometown allow me to be in better shape.
I do not claim to be an expert paddler, but I’m definitely an avid paddler. From my observations, the replacement of dams that no longer serve a purpose with recreational river features that encourage the use of our valuable waterways is a great success.
Nowadays, most outdoor enthusiasts get their information about recreation opportunities from social media. The Ohio Paddlers Facebook page and website (www.ohiopaddlers.com) have been inundated with posts and videos about these features for several months.
People are driving from all over the tri-state to have an opportunity to enjoy these features. There are very few locations in the region where paddlers can find this class of wave to practice this sport. I just recently scheduled an all-day outing with our group, traveling through all three features, and everyone had a great time. It’s wonderful that they replaced dangerous low head dams with safe and fun river opportunities.
Whitewater playparks generate excitement and growth within their communities. Rivers naturally attract people to them and the Eastwood Park and River Run water features are no different. These new features make the river that much more exciting. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be on the river on a hot summer day?
Whitewater boaters are thrilled to have features that they can play in and practice their tricks. Recreational boaters can step up their game and paddle on more exciting waters while those who enjoy calmer water can still paddle and use the easier pass-thru feature where you can avoid the rapids. Other people will come to the features simply to enjoy nature, watch the boaters, sit and read a book, or hang out with friends. It’s the perfect place to just be.
As a business, we are fortunate to have both the Mad River and Great Miami River directly in our backyard. For us, the Eastwood Park and River Run water features offer tremendous opportunities to further grow our business as well as give us a great platform for teaching and growing the sports of kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. The new features will be good for business and good for the community. We look forward to seeing kayaking grow to its full potential, right here in Dayton, Ohio.