Big expansion for Great Miami Riverway: south into Hamilton County

A kayaker listens to music from the Great Miami River as Flying Buffaloes and Motherfolk performed at RiversEdge Amphitheater Thursday, August 6, 2020 with limited capacity to meet social distancing requirements. The RiversEdge concerts series is normally free but they have fenced off the area and attendees must now purchase tickets to reserve a square marked out on the grass designated as their seating area. The squares are spaced out around the venue with plenty of room to walk between them and stay distanced. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
A kayaker listens to music from the Great Miami River as Flying Buffaloes and Motherfolk performed at RiversEdge Amphitheater Thursday, August 6, 2020 with limited capacity to meet social distancing requirements. The RiversEdge concerts series is normally free but they have fenced off the area and attendees must now purchase tickets to reserve a square marked out on the grass designated as their seating area. The squares are spaced out around the venue with plenty of room to walk between them and stay distanced. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The 99-mile-long Great Miami Riverway from Sidney to Hamilton has taken a major step toward expansion southward with the membership of Great Parks of Hamilton County, the first entity south of Hamilton to join the tourism organization.

“We’re thankful for this because Great Parks is the first agency from Hamilton County to join our riverway partnership,” said Dan Foley, director of the riverway. “Great Parks has more than eight miles of ownership of parks and properties along the banks of the Great Miami, parks like Shawnee Lookout, which has more than 2,000 acres, and it sits at the junction of the Great Miami and the Ohio River.”

That park district’s strategic plan includes the goal of linking the Great Miami recreation biking/hiking trail “all the way to the Ohio River, to meet up with east-west cycling routes,” Foley announced during an online “summit” meeting of riverway members, which increase to 20 with the addition. The gathering originally had been scheduled for this spring at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts.

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“We’re having conversations with them around more paddling infrastructure, particularly on the most southern point of the Great Miami,” Foley said. “And we’ve seen consistently strong traffic on our website from Hamilton County residents who hit our website for trip information, and so we just think it’s a natural connectivity to try to bring them into the riverway community.”

“Great Parks is thrilled to be a member of a growing collaboration that encourages use of recreational assets and the strengthening of river corridor communities,” says Todd Palmeter, CEO of Great Parks.

The Hamilton County parks district joins other parks-district members of Miami County Park District, Five Rivers MetroParks and MetroParks of Butler County. Locally, cities that are members include Hamilton, Middletown, Franklin and Miamisburg.

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In 1972, the first paved mile of the Great Miami river trail was built in Troy. In 1976, another eight miles were built in Dayton’s downtown. In the 1980s, Hamilton built its section along the river. Biking and hiking paths now are nearly complete from Hamilton to Sidney, with only small gaps remaining, and those have plans for construction.

“That’s led to about 340 miles of connected paved trail in our region,” Foley said.

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Inclusion of a Cincinnati-area organization increases the likelihood that more day tourists will visit Hamilton, Middletown and other areas of Butler County for paddling, biking, shopping and dining or visits to such places as Municipal Brew Works.

The Hamilton County parks “have shown us some great examples of land reuse that I think we can replicate in other parts of the riverway,” said Foley, a former Montgomery County commissioner. “For example, they have a couple former gravel pits — we have a lot of those along the Great Miami River — that have been repurposed into public park spaces. So we think we can learn from what they’ve done.”

The Hamilton County parks also can help with marketing, including to Cincinnati-area residents, Foley said.

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