ROCK CREEK — When some people look at the Grand River, they simply see a body of water. But those working hard to preserve it see so much more.
As part of the ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ohio’s Scenic River Act, more than a dozen area leaders got a chance for a “leisurely” canoe trip down the Grand River starting at the Morgan Swamp Preserve in Rock Creek Wednesday morning.
The Nature Conservancy has long been working to protect the river, part of which flows through Morgan Swamp Preserve, said Jacqueline Bilello event coordinator and Central Lake Erie Basin Project Manager for the conservancy. She said having good, clean water quality is a great asset, and getting out on the river itself allows people to
“really feel that connection.”
“It’s definitely a fun, leisurely float on a
Scenic River,” Bilello said.
Ryan Moss, stream quality management coordinator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said when he was kid he grew up playing in streams. When he first began volunteering to help with stream quality monitoring, he saw it as an excuse to go play in the stream. Now, he sees the water as the resource it is.
The National Scenic River Act passed in October 1968 — eight months after Ohio passed the country’s first scenic river act.
Ohio has 14 rivers that have been officially designated as wild, scenic and recreational rivers — including three in Ashtabula County. It is expected a fourth river, Pymatuning Creek, will be designated a Scenic River in the coming months. When that happens, State Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, said no other county in the nation would have more than Ashtabula County’s four Scenic Rivers — including the Grand River, Ashtabula River and Conneaut Creek.
Bob Gable, Ohio Department of Natural Resources scenic river program manager, said the designation identifies stream resources with outstanding water quality, biological diversity and rare and endangered species, among other things. The state has seen a marked increase in interest in activities like canoeing and kayaking, and Scenic Rivers with clean water and tranquil scenery adds to that experience.
“Scenic Rivers with natural character create a high degree of recreational opportunities,” he said Wednesday.
Attendees at Wednesday’s event included Patterson, representatives from the offices of State. Sen. Sean O’Brien, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, and Commissioner J.P. Ducro.
Gable and others spoke about the collaborative effort and local investment in the Scenic Rivers — it is not possible to get the designation without strong local support, calling it “a badge of honor.”
“It says something about the community. ... They value this resource,” he said. “To me that says this is a great place to live.”
Marta Stone, a long-time volunteer with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy who has lived along the Grand River for more than 40 years, said “everybody’s working together” to celebrate, appreciate and collaborate the Scenic Rivers. She said 50 percent of the watershed in the Grand River is now protected.
Bilello said the local buy-in is so important to protecting the water quality.
“It’s all up for grabs unless we care about it,” she said. “It’s why I get excited when I see such dedicated people in Ashtabula County working to preserve that water quality.”
Former state representative Bob Boggs said getting the Scenic River designations was not easy, particularly for the Ashtabula River. There was always a battle with some group or federal agency. He credited those dedicated to the endeavor for its success.
“It was the people who made it happen,” he said.