- Kara Driscoll Staff Writer
Under heavy clouds and an onslaught of rain, community leaders celebrated the grand opening of the city’s newest water attraction — the RiverScape River Run.
Five Rivers MetroParks debuted its $4 million project on Friday evening in front of dozens of business leaders, residents and water enthusiasts. The completion of the project comes after two years of construction, nearly 20 years of planning and the fundraising efforts of an entire community.
“Today, what I think we’re realizing is that more and more we want to reconnect with the river and all the reasons why Dayton is where it is, which is primarily because of its proximity to the river” said Alex Taylor, who was recently named the CEO of Cox Enterprises. “So, with the removal of these low-head dams and the revitalization of the whole river corridor, hopefully this will have the effect of drawing everybody back into the Great Miami River valley.”
With 3.3 million visitors using area parks each year, Five Rivers MetroParks expects to draw even more crowds with the addition of the River Run. The water attraction features two rock and concrete structures that span the Great Miami River between the Main and Monument streets bridges.
One river chute, located near East Monument Avenue near the Dayton Art Institute, includes two features: one smooth-water passageway for novice paddlers and a whitewater chute for those daredevil kayakers. The second chute, located near the Main Street bridge, includes similar passageway for boaters.
Dayton leaders, including Mayor Nan Whaley, lauded the efforts of local businesses and organizations that contributed to the vision of the project. In 2010, the community started envisioning a project that would stimulate both economic support and entertainment in the heart of the city.
The River Run was born out of an idea by local resident Bernie Farley, the owner of the Dayton Whitewater Warehouse. Progress really started when the James M. Cox Foundation issued a $1 million grant in July 2011. The foundation is an entity of Cox Media Group, this newspaper’s parent company.
Rob Rohr, market vice president for Cox Media Group Ohio, said the company is proud to be on the team to bring the RiverScape River Run to Dayton. Rohr referenced the momentous history that is deeply rooted in the city, so much of it touched by the Cox family.
After the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, Gov. James M. Cox worked to rebuild the ravaged and destitute city. A century later, the company he founded is part of the team to give the river back to the Dayton people — making it a cornerstone of outdoor entertainment and recreation.
“It can bring us together and unite us as a city,” Rohr said.
The project received nearly 250 donations mostly from private sector entities, ranging from $1 to $1 million, according to Michael Ervin, co-chair of the Downtown Dayton Partnership board of trustees and co-chair for the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan.
The impact of the River Run goes beyond just removing a dangerous low dam, officials said. It’s the next step in a pointed push to revitalize downtown. New downtown apartments like the Water Street Flats and the Delco Lofts are close to completion as developers work to find funding for the $80 million rehab of the Dayton Arcade.
» RiverScape River Run: 5 things to know
“It’s exciting when news breaks about a new townhome being built, or a new restaurant opening, or when a new business announces it’s moving downtown, but we want to make sure that growth is happening in a way that’s impactful and sustainable,” said Sandra Gudorf, Downtown Dayton Partnership president.
Other projects include the new Dayton Metro Library main branch, the Fire Blocks project, the new Fairfield Inn and Suites, Levitt Pavilion and Monument Walk. State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, said the project is another way to better quality of life for residents in the Miami Valley — an important asset to lure in young professionals and new companies.
“The river is a great asset to us, and we should use it more,” Antani said.
Though a flood advisory has been issued for most parts of the region, the swelling waters of the Great Miami River didn’t keep some paddle-boarders dry. As spectators took cover under the RiverScape pavilion and peered out in the direction of the River Run, three paddlers maneuvered their way through the swift, rippling waters.
“This is going to be a great place for people to spend the summer,” said Gwen Eberly, economic development and planning manager for Montgomery County. “It’s just another example of making Dayton the whole package.”
FIVE FAST BUSINESS READS