Regional trails draw worldwide attention

By Angela Manuszak, Special Projects Coordinator

Many everyday items that make life easier were invented in the Dayton region. The airplane. The pop-top can. The cash register. Dayton is also home to some pretty amazing, more natural creations, too, namely, our rivers – and the hiking and biking trails near them. And while our trails don’t get the same attention as the airplane or the cash register, our regional trails are about to get noticed in a big way.

The American Trails’ International Trails Symposium heads to the Dayton region, May 7-10. The ITS is a biennial symposium that brings together the worldwide trails community to experience regional trails and advocate for the economic and environmental power of trails.

But what’s so special about our rivers and trails?

With 340 miles of trails to explore, this region boasts the largest, paved trail network in the country

Contiguous land ownership

MCD owns extensive and contiguous riverfront land in cities along the Great Miami River as part of its flood protection system. It also preserved floodplains at each of its five dry dams. Upstream of each dam are vast tracts of land meant to flood occasionally so downstream cities don’t. MCD’s first chief engineer, Arthur Morgan, persuaded the MCD Board of Directors to open thousands of acres of the “retarding basins” to the public.

Today, each dam’s forested greenspaces are wrapped with hiking trails, traversed by bike trails, dotted with picnic areas, then splashed with river launch ramps – all managed in partnership with county park districts, especially Five Rivers MetroParks.

In the 1970s, a grassroots effort to build a paved, connected trail on MCD’s riverfront property led to the first major segment of trail – an 8-mile loop on both banks of the Great Miami River in Dayton. While flood protection remains the highest purpose of the land, trails are a compatible use that has transformed our region. The Great Miami River Bike Trail now has a total of nearly 80 miles completed, and new sections will be constructed before 2020. Other trails – built by MCD partners and colleagues — radiate like bike wheel spokes from Dayton in every direction.

The Buckeye Trail is one of many hiking trails throughout the region.

Recognition
Every year the trail network’s fame grows. MCD’s trails:

  • Host part of the North Country and Buckeye trails.
  • Have been named National Recreation Trails.
  • Are designated to carry part of US Bike Route 50 across the state.

Connect several sites of the National Aviation Heritage Area.

The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers, along with Greenville, Buck and Twin creeks are the only nationally designated water trail in Ohio and one of only 22 in the country. The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers also are a state designated water trail.

State and national designated water trails

Our rivers are getting plenty of attention, too. Last year, the Great Miami, Mad and Stillwater rivers along with Greenville, Buck and Twin creeks were designated the first and only National Water Trail in the state of Ohio. The national water trail designation by the U.S. Department of Interior is given only to those water trails that are exemplary. The Great Miami, Stillwater and Mad rivers also are state-designated water trails.

Soon the world will know
With all of the amazing trails nearby, no wonder American Trails chose the Dayton region for its 2017 ITS. We are proud to join the list of celebrated trail cities that have hosted this conference in the past, including: Portland, Oregon; Tucson; Chattanooga; Austin; and Orlando. We hope you will join us for the symposium or one of the related events open to the public. Go to americantrails.org to learn more.

 

Great Miami River: Is the water safe for recreation?

By Mike Ekberg, Manager for Water Resources Monitoring and Analysis

Do you like to canoe, kayak, or row on the Great Miami River? Have you ever flipped your boat and ended up soaked with a mouthful of river water? Did you worry about getting sick?

River users frequently ask me,  “Is the water safe?”

The answer is yes, in most cases.

e. coli

E. coli bacteria

Bacteria levels can be a problem
Just like in most lakes and rivers, bacteria can be a problem. Bacteria levels from fecal contamination in the Great Miami River are a bad news/good news situation. The bad news is the levels tend to spike after it rains. The good news is the bacteria tend to die off quickly.

Keep in mind that even after a good rain, the risk of exposure to bacteria is likely to be low unless you swim in or drink the river water. For most people, paddling or rowing is a relatively low-risk activity.

Bacteria can get into the river from a variety of sources including poorly functioning septic systems, pet waste, streets, sidewalks, storm sewers, and farm fields. In the Great Miami River and its tributaries, Ohio EPA sets water-quality standards and measures recreation water quality based on a group of bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli).

Ohio EPA evaluated bacteria levels in the Great Miami River in 2009 and 2010. The results showed average bacteria concentrations exceeded state standards at more than half of the sampling sites. MCD evaluated E. coli levels in the Great Miami River in 2012 and also found frequent occurrences of the bacteria.

Elevated E. coli levels and rainfall are related
As little as 0.30 inches of rain can raise E. coli levels in the Great Miami River, according to MCD’s study. But bacteria levels can return to safe levels in as little as 48 to 72 hours after a rainfall. Water samples collected 72 or more hours after rain often showed very low levels of E. coli and met state standards.

Dry weather minimizes risk
The best way to minimize your exposure to bacteria in the Great Miami River is to enjoy it during days of dry weather. If, however, you have open wounds, skin infections, or have a compromised immune system, consult your physician before taking part in any river recreation, and use caution.    

Forecasting safety
Using the relationship among rainfall, river flow, turbidity and E. coli, it’s possible to predict safe or unsafe river recreation conditions. Technology now allows for water-quality forecasting. Check out Ohio Nowcast, a web forecasting service for beaches on Lake Erie.

Preliminary planning is under way for MCD to develop a forecasting app for the Great Miami River. Two years of sampling will be needed before the app can be up and running.