Downtown River Run project kicking off, watery cartwheels, rolls and dip coming

If things go as planned, the water that flows through the city's core will be filled with cartwheels, flips and whip-outs in a year's time.

A "water-breaking" for the long-anticipated RiverScape River Run project will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, at RiverScape MetroPark, 111 E. Monument Ave.

Carrie Scarff, Five Rivers MetroParks' deputy director, told me the project and its two dynamic water features will change what the river means to generations of Daytonians by putting them in the water.

Mad River Run in Eastwood MetroPark. (Staff photo by Ty Greenlees)

“We have done a good job in getting people to the edge of the river,” she said. “(With this, people) will be able to paddle through downtown for the first time. People will grow up with this. It will be part of their life.”

The project will open up seven miles of waterway from Eastwood MetroPark and the smaller Mad River Run through downtown and south to Carillon Historical Park and the University of Dayton area to kayakers and other paddlers.

The construction kickoff also will celebrate Oakwood resident Amy Deal's design for the waterfront's 953-foot-long concrete floodwall.

Here are seven things to know about the project:

It is an "us" effort

About $4 million was raised for the project from local governments, private citizens and foundations. The James M. Cox Foundation contributed $1 million.

It is a total makeover

Perspective from RiverScape MetroPark (Source: Five Rivers MetroParks)

In May, MetroParks board commissioners awarded the project’s contract to J & J Schlaegel, an Urbana-based company.

The Monument Avenue low dam near the Dayton Art Institute will be partly demolished and replaced by two crescent-shaped water features.

One will be located at the low dam’s current spot, the other near RiverScape MetroPark. The project is expected to take about a year to complete.

It will take big rocks

Native limestone will be used in the river run structure.

"We are not taking little rocks; we are talking big, big rock,” Scarff said. “These will be built to withstand the flooding that we have.”

Each structure will feature a smooth-water passageway for novice paddlers and a whitewater feature for experienced paddlers.

The structure closest to RiverScape will be a particularly fun hangout spot that is enhanced by the existing bike path, she said.

The second drop at what is now the low dam. (Source: Five Rivers MetroParks)

“This wave will be a great spot for experienced kayakers to play in,” Scarff said. "They surf and they turn flips and roll." There (will be) a bevy of activity there, and it (kayaking) is a tremendous spectator sport."

She pointed to the success of the Mad River Run as an example of what will happen at the larger RiverScape River Run.

Paddleboarders at Eastwood MetroPark's lake the first day of summer. (Source: Five Rivers MetroPark's Facebook page)

"People are hanging out on their rock whether there are kayakers there or not. There is something about water, in particular moving water," she said. "It is just an invigorating and exciting place to be. People what to hang out there. They want to be there."

It is part of  the complete package.

The RiverScape River Run along with the new Link Dayton bike share program and new housing will add vibrancy to downtown Dayton and further solidify it as a place people want to visit and lives and companies want to relocate, D owntown Dayton Partnership President Sandy Gudorf told me.

Oregon District resident Omar J. Peters rides a Link Dayton Ride Share bike (Source: Facebook)

“It is all about the complete package,” she said. “The river run project is a key component of building the downtown that we all want.”

Scarff said downtown residents in particular will have wonderful recreational activities outside of their back doors.

It will be really transformative for this community and a really key part of what makes downtown an exciting place to live and work. It is a real economic component to attract and retain young talent,” she said.

River Run Mural design by finalist Amy Deal of Oakwood. (Source: Five Rivers MetroParks)

It is expected to be an economic driver

Scarff said similar projects have added $500,000 to $2 million annually to the economies of Reno, Nev.; Boise, Idaho;  Wausau, Wis.  and other cities through things like tourism and equipment purchase.

Eric Dahlstrom, a fishing and paddling expert and Five Rivers MetroPark's outdoor recreation coordinator, said kayaking is booming in Ohio thanks partly to recreational kayaks.

Recreational Kayaks are larger and less expensive than sea or whitewater kayaks, he said.

He sees the paddling sport growing locally and predicted the river run will be a great amenity.

"It is just one more opportunity for people to get out and have an adventure locally," Dahlstrom told me.

It is not just for those in the water

The river run structures will span the river and be 75 feet at their widest points along banks. The narrowest points near the center will be about 40-feet wide.

People will be able to walk, sit and fish on the rocks.

Dahlstrom said the water features will help aerate the water and attract fish and their prey.

It has been in the works for years

(Source: Five Rivers MetroPark's Facebook page)

Scarff says MetroParks and community partners have been working toward the river run for at least a decade.

The James M. Cox Foundation issued its $1 million challenge grant in July 2011.

The project reached its $4 million fundraising goal in October 2012, but had been delayed.

It has been even a longer time coming for Bernie Farley, the owner of Whitewater Warehouse on Valley Street.

The paddlesports specialty store first proposed a river run two years after opening in 1994.

"It is going to help the business, but more important it going to help the community. Recreation is one of the components to keep our kids here," Farley said. "It is not only about the paddling community; it is about the community as a whole."

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