Share the River celebrates the Cuyahoga River and summer with annual kick-off
With the arrival of the Memorial Day weekend, Share the River, a group that promotes the safe and shared use of the Cuyahoga River, is looking ahead to the summer recreational season. Wednesday's kickoff celebrated the opportunities for boating, kayaking and other recreational activities on the river but also included a message of safety.
“We can do a kinder, gentler form of a safety meeting,” Share the River founder Jim Ridge said, “and wrap hospitality and recreation and [show] how all of these different stakeholders … have all helped to make this river more appealing to people.”
The kickoff featured speakers who highlighted the importance of the river for both recreational and commercial use and included representatives from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Cleveland Metroparks, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Lake Carriers' Association.
More than 50 years ago, the Clean Water Act took effect. Its passage was spurred on by fires on the Cuyahoga River and by severe water pollution across the country.
In February, the Cuyahoga River was voted as the best urban kayaking spot by USA Today readers beating out the Sacramento River and the Roanoke River, which earned second and third place respectively.
Ridge presented certificates to the speakers and thanked them and their organizations for helping rehabilitate the Cuyahoga over the last 50 years.
“It's a bit of a beauty contest. I'll be real there. There's no real scientific standards,” Ridge said. “But what it does measure is how a community feels about the natural resource that is cutting right through the heart of a city.”
The change in reputation from the “Burning River” to a top recreational destination reflects the 50 years of hard work put into rehabilitating the Cuyahoga River, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District CEO Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells said.
“It really showcases for people in an accessible way the water quality achievements,” she said. “Sometimes it's hard for folks to understand underground infrastructure and big infrastructure projects because they don't really touch them and see them, but to be able to come to the Cuyahoga River and know that there are 72 different species of fish that are indicators of clean water, I mean, it's just amazing.”
The river will be more accessible for Cleveland boaters, Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman said, thanks to new boating docks on the waterfront.
“We've got 18 new boat slips through the boating infrastructure grant, a federal grant program, first public boat docks along the Cuyahoga River.”
While the river is open for those looking to spend summer days boating, fishing, kayaking and more, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Cleveland Jeremy Maginot said to be mindful of large commercial vessels on the water too.
“Just like a train, just like a semi, it's hard for them to move. Whereas if you may be more maneuverable in a kayak in a float, et cetera, and you can get out of their way,” he said. “I wouldn't trust that they could always see you if you see them. So, do your best to stay out of their way.”
Most freight ships on the water have propellers and thrusters that can be dangerous for those nearby on the water. As a general rule of thumb, Maginot said to wear a life jacket, stay sober and to stay alert while on the water.
Ridge had a few safety tips of his own, and recommended using an app like MarineTraffic to track commercial ships before heading to the water.
"If you take a look at that app on your phone before you even put in the river, you now have situational awareness," he said, "so that on this curvy river, when you're paddling down this lazy industrial river, you aren't surprised by a 600-foot freighter staring you in the face."