Get ready to get in the water, Dayton.
The long-anticipated $4 million RiverScape River Run project will be formally opened during a community celebration slated for 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 5.
“We hope the community comes out and celebrates with us,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “This project is another important part of helping to make downtown the vibrant place we want it to be.”
Here is what to expect during the ceremony, which will be held under the RiverScape pavilion:
- 4:30 p.m. → Opening remarks
- 5 p.m. → Ceremonial first paddle, featuring demonstration paddlers
- 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. → Five Rivers MetroParks kicks off its Pickin’ in the Park series presented by Dayton.com at 6 p.m. The first installment features bluegrass from Casey Campbell, Slippery Creek and The Tillers.
There will also be local craft beer and food trucks.
DDP co-chair Mike Ervin said that River Run means great things for downtown and the region as a whole.
“The 1999 RiverScape master plan — a partnership between Five Rivers MetroParks, Montgomery County, the city of Dayton, the Greater Dayton RTA and the Miami Conservancy District — called for a canoe shoot through the then-existing low dam,” explained Carrie Scarff, Five Rivers MetroParks Chief of Planning and Projects.
The River Run project took that idea even further.
Ervin said the idea that lead to the project has been discussed as an economic driver since about 2010.
The idea championed by Bernie Farley, the owner of the Dayton Whitewater Warehouse, included the removal of a deadly low dam near the Dayton Art Institute, the addition of two river run chutes featuring smooth-water passageways for novice paddlers, and whitewater play spots for experienced kayakers.
It is expected to attract kayakers able to do wild flips and cartwheels, but Ervin said the project is as much about economic growth as it is showy athletics.
“How can you use a river to bring back a city?” he said.
Ervin said he studied the success of a river run project in Oklahoma City.
The grand opening is a momentous occasion.
“They said it was impossible — it was bad economic times — but this community came together and we did it,” Ervin said. “The planning we did back then turned out to be right.”
The project got a jump start when The James M. Cox Foundation issued a $1 million challenge grant in July 2011. Cox Media Group is the parent company of this news organization.
Ervin said the River Run is part of a larger effort to revitalize Dayton’s core. It includes new businesses, residents and amenities.
“There is no single silver bullet in solving the problems of the city, but this is a piece,” he said. “More and more businesses are going to want to locate downtown. People are going to want to live downtown.”