Ohio’s Great Corridor plan afloat

The region is about to take another step toward making Ohio’s Great Corridor a reality.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to begin developing a master plan for the 99-mile stretch of the Great Miami River meandering from Sidney to Dayton to Hamilton.

The plan, estimated to cost $250,000, is seen as essential to join various local plans along the river corridor into a single recreational area — dubbed Ohio’s Great Corridor — drawing tourists and area residents down to the river.

“All up and down this river corridor we have a lot of vibrant cities, great park districts. How can we interconnect them?” said Stan Kegley, president of Ohio’s Great Corridor Association.

The Miami Conservancy District and Montgomery County obtained commitments from 15 local governments for the 50 percent local share of the funds, officials said.

“Once we have money in house, we can start work,” Amy Babey, plan formulation chief for the Louisville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said last week.

The Corps can spend up to $136,000 in federal funds on the project. The first step in the year-long study process is determining the actual cost, and thus the local share, Babey said.

Similar plans helped spark regional economic development along recreational corridors in communities around the U.S., officials said.

Already Miami Valley communities are working on more than $35 million in riverfront projects, including the $4 million Dayton River Run whitewater park project in downtown Dayton.

In addition, private businesses are trying to capitalize on interest in riverfront dining, entertainment and recreation, from biking along the path following the bank to paddling canoes and kayaks in the river.

“We’ve been kind of waiting on this for some time,” said Chris Jackson, owner of Adventures on the Great Miami, a canoe livery outside Tipp City.

“I’ve been kind of watching this evolve,” said Jackson, a concrete contractor who has been building his business over the past six years. Recently Jackson put on a music festival featuring a stage in the river.

Up and down the river, events are held to encourage people to come to the riverfront and enjoy amenities, from restaurants to picnic areas to bike hubs.

On Aug. 31, Miamisburg held RiverBlast, a day of activities capped by a fireworks display.

The study was good news for Chris Hughes, owner of the Tin Roof, a waterfront restaurant at the Troy marina.

“To me it’s something they should be working harder for,” he said. “That’s not entirely altruistic. We’re sitting right over top the water.”

The application was supported by local governments from Sidney in Shelby County to West Carrollton in Montgomery County to the Butler County Metroparks.

“This is going to focus on recreational amenities along the river, what’s there, what’s planned and what opportunities there are for additional amenities along the riverfront,” said Brenda Gibson, public relations manager for the Miami Conservancy District.

Last week, the Miami Conservancy District was awaiting fulfillment of the commitments from the various funders.

Support wasn’t universal.

In July, Tipp City City Council declined to join those offering to help come up with the local matching funds. Tipp City Mayor Dee Gillis referred questions to City Manager Jon Crusey who said the city still planned to participate in discussions of the proposed corridor.

“Council did not want to participate in assisting in the funding,” Crusey said.

The study is to begin 100 years after formation of the Miami Conservancy District, following the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.

“100 years later, were coming together again to redefine our region,” Kegley said.

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