Feeling a spray of mist, I float down the Great Miami River with the River Stewards, an eclectic group of students from almost all majors united around their love of the river.
As I paddle my kayak past tree-lined grassy banks and watch the downtown skyline emerge in the distance, I understand more deeply their passion, their sense of wonder at the possibilities.
The River Stewards represent a new generation of water enthusiasts. As ambassadors for riverfront development, they are a critical part of a team of regional leaders and planners working to leverage the assets of more than a dozen waterfront communities in a 77-mile stretch winding from Sidney to Hamilton — and right through our campus.
Don’t underestimate the power of their vision, the depth of their tenacity.
With the help of donors and educational leaders, they recently converted a 53-foot semi-trailer into a mobile, multimedia classroom. It’s a roving billboard that vividly illustrates the students’ commitment to conserving and promoting the Great Miami River watershed. It’s set to travel to area schools this fall.
The RiverMobile’s mission is simple: to develop pride for the region, to provide knowledge about Dayton’s river system and water resources, and to develop personal responsibility for the protection of local water resources and the environment.
As Rivers Institute graduate assistant Bethany Renner ’12 told her fellow River Stewards at the unveiling of the RiverMobile, “We believe that if people learn to appreciate and grow to love our local watershed and its assets, they will do their part to act as good stewards.
The RiverMobile is just one very visible example of how the University is bringing Dayton to the river. This summer, we partnered with the Miami Conservancy District to construct a bike path extension along the river from Stewart Street to the softball diamond. We plan to build stairs to the river and place benches or swings along the adjacent bike path. We’re launching the Outdoor Engagement Center so all students will have access to the equipment they need to enjoy our rivers and trails.
More importantly, faculty, staff and students in the Rivers Institute can be found at the table of every major regional discussion about water. The River Stewards recently lobbied to remove a dangerous low dam in down- town Dayton. They created a river leadership curriculum for UD students. They spearheaded an annual River Summit to develop a regional strategy for tapping into the untapped potential of the rivers.
We educate our students to be community builders. One trip down the Great Miami River is all it takes to see how well the River Stewards have learned that lesson.