Most people don’t realize it, but February 2018 is an historic month. Fifty years ago, on Feb. 28, 1968, the Ohio Legislature passed the first scenic river act in America. It even beat the federal government by eight months.
A lot of this honor goes to a Dayton-area man, Glenn Thompson, who loved to canoe the Little Miami River and was tired of seeing it become clogged with visible and sunken trash, from cars and tires, to concrete slabs and appliances and wastewater dumping. You name it, it was in the river, causing harm to the wildlife and water quality and definitely disturbing his sense of calm and restorative peace. Thompson was editor of the Dayton Journal Herald in the 1960s and was known for championing conservation issues. He instigated the founding of the Five Rivers Metro Parks, the Ohio Conservation League, now known as the Ohio Environmental Council, and Little Miami Inc., now called Little Miami Conservancy.
His dream was simple sounding: “Someday a corridor of green will stretch from one end of the river to the other, so individuals and families will enjoy peace and quiet and restoration of the spirit that comes with clean water, birds and trees.” but individuals and groups are still working to make it a reality.
The river has improved in many ways since those early attempts at restoration. Thanks to his effort to bring attention to this asset in our midst, its hard to find the amount of trash that Thompson saw, but its not hard to see that vigilance is still required.
Concerned Greene County citizens started the Little Miami River Kleeners in 2010 when they realized the river was again beginning to fill up with tires, plastic, Styrofoam, metal and other incredible items that should not be in the water. Since then each year they have organized a canoe based clean up and have removed more than 10 tons of trash and 700 tires.
The Little Miami River was the first river in Ohio to gain the status of a state and national scenic river. Volunteers had to work hard to gain this recognition and still struggle to maintain those gains.
Why do we work so hard? Its simple: The Little Miami River is the only river in the state that has its entire length declared “scenic;” its whole length is known for its exceptional warm water habitat; eagles, small mouth bass, turtles and creatures of all types live in it, on it or near it; it is the home to several endangered species; its current water quality is very high; it brings economic prosperity to the region; streamside forests protect more that 50 percent of its banks; and it still provides individuals and families with recreational enjoyment where they can find “peace and quiet and restoration of the spirit.”
The list of its special attributes could go on and on.
To remain a place that draws people and wildlife to the “green corridor” we must not let the biggest threats to the river’s quality 50 years ago continue to negatively impact it today. Thompson wrote about the damaging effect of sedimentation, suburbanization, and polluted runoff. They are still the major threats to the quality of the river and all the economic, social, and environmental benefits it brings to the area.
You can join in helping to realize Thompson’s dream by making sure no run off from your property contains pollutants or sediment, that you use native plants and trees to create a wide buffer along its banks, and that you let your elected officials know you love the river and what it protected.
Together we can keep Thompson’s dream alive. We can “treasure those things that give us joy and fulfillment as human beings,” and teach our children and grandchildren to treasure them also.
Let this month motivate you to take action. Don’t let the sun set on the beauty and benefits of the Little Miami River and its tributaries. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
Hope Taft is the former first lady of Ohio, local resident and guest columnist.