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Frank Gray

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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
A leaf floats in a pool of water, shimmering from the reflection of the sky on an oil-like substance, in the Saint Marys River next to Foster Park.

Using rivers a good start

Studies take time, so take time to check out waterways

I see the city is going to be spending $500,000 on consultants to study ways to develop the city’s rivers.

That in itself is not news. It was first announced early this year.

What I can’t help but wonder is what sort of plan the consultants will come up with when they’ve finished their work a year and a half from now.

I suppose I’m just as excited as the next guy to see what their proposals will be. After all, I’ve lived in this town since 1982, and people have been talking about how to tame the rivers and what to do with them since I first arrived.

We haven’t completely ignored the rivers.

For years we had a raft race, a floating free-for-all with a little chaos mixed in. The race died after a while, primarily for financial reasons. All those T-shirts that participants got cost the sponsors a lot of money.

The raft race was reintroduced this year. It was not a lot different from the race back in the 1980s, but at least we’re using the river.

We’ve also introduced the Riverfest, held at IPFW. This year one of the features was a cardboard boat regatta, in which participants had to build boats out of cardboard and race them.

At least we’re using the rivers now, a lot more than we did a couple of decades ago.

Then there’s the Save the Maumee Grassroots Organization, an outfit started by one woman that now brings people together to haul tons of trash out of one stretch of the Maumee each year.

What I don’t understand is why we don’t have something like a Save the St. Marys organization that draws people together to pull the tires and barrels and logs out of the St. Marys, creating some sort of seminavigable channel that lets people canoe from the Tillman Park area all the way downtown. I’ve canoed that route and it’s a pleasant experience.

For most people, though, the rivers have long been something considered too polluted for fishing or canoeing or worrisome channels that flood their homes, local parks and roads.

Once our consultants are finished pondering the rivers, they will undoubtedly come up with ideas that come with price tags that will make some people recoil. We will all have to remember, though, that any grand plans that are pursued will take years to accomplish. It will be a long-term investment that will have to be done a little bit at a time.

In the meantime it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t cost anything to put a canoe or kayak into one of the city’s rivers and go for a paddle, and it costs little to fish in the city’s rivers.

Trying them out for free, or virtually free, is one way to increase appreciation for the rivers, because a public that doesn’t appreciate what we have will never support spending large amounts to take care of them.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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