XENIA — Greene County Board of Commissioners celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Ohio Scenic Rivers Act at their regular meeting Feb. 22.
On Feb. 28, 1968, Ohio became a pioneer in the river preservation movement with the passage of the Ohio Scenic Rivers Act — the first scenic rivers act in the nation that created a program to preserve and protect rivers throughout Ohio, according to the commissioners’ resolution.
Scenic river areas are rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments, with shorelines or watersheds still largely primitive and shorelines largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads, according to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Bill Schieman, from Little Miami Watershed Network who accepted the resolution, said the Little Miami River was the first river in Ohio to gain the status of state and national scenic river in 1969. It’s also the only river whose entire length — more than 107 miles — is designated scenic, he said.
Schieman nodded to the work that is being done in Greene County, specifically by Greene County Parks and Trails.
“The bike path alone this year will exceed one million visitors. It’s incredible how many people are drawn to biking, jogging, paddling, fishing, rafting … ” he said.
Schieman also said it’s nice to celebrate the last 50 years but it’s more important to focus on the next 50 years.
“The next 50 years are going to be super challenging for us. We’ve done a lot of great work … from the trash we’ve taken out, to proactive education efforts going on in the communities … the next 50 years the development is going to be intensive,” he said.
Looking ahead, the volunteer and conservationist urges local government officials to integrate the river and its amenities into an updated long-range land use plan.
“The value that it brings … you look at the economic engine it is for property taxes and tourism … it has to be recognized and carefully planned for in our next update in the long-range land use plan,” Schieman said. “If we are going to be planning for the health and the protection of the watershed, one of the most important things we can do is get the underpinning for that in an approved county document.
The Regional Planning and Coordinating Commission prepared “Perspectives 2020: A Future Land Use Plan for Greene County, Ohio” in 2001. The policy document focused on growth management in the county, coordinating planning efforts with all jurisdictions.
County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said the commissioners are planning for an update to the document, hopefully in 2019.
Ultimately, Schieman said the importance of preservation efforts like this can be summed up in two words: “nature nurtures.”
“We all came from nature,” he said. “It’s just an amazing asset that is easy to take for granted. It requires careful handling and planning.”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.