Friday August 8, 2008

Making Waves

UD River Stewards take a two-day kayak trip down the Great Miami River to promote the mission of the Rivers Institute to reunite the region and its rivers.

A group of University of Dayton students have a vision for the Miami Valley to live up to its name, and it all starts with a trip down the Great Miami River.

About 40 UD students, faculty, staff and community partners will spend two days next week kayaking, camping and studying the environment of the region's largest river.

Students will begin their trip Tuesday, Aug. 12, at the Taylorsville Dam in Vandalia and camp overnight at Island MetroPark in Dayton.

The trip includes a stop from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, at RiverScape for fish shocking and presentations from Five Rivers MetroParks and the Miami Conservancy District. Students will finish the trip at SunWatch Indian Village.

Fish shocking — or electrofishing — involves passing an electric current through the water to stun fish and bring them to the surface for counting and studying. The diversity of fish species is a good indicator of the water quality in the area. The method does not harm the fish, which return to their original state within minutes.

The two-day experience has become an annual orientation event for the incoming class of River Stewards, a group of UD students from several academic majors who lead the University's Rivers Institute.

"The Rivers Institute is a vehicle to encourage the Miami Valley community — including Dayton and UD — to return to the river as an incredibly valuable resource for revitalization," said Rivers Institute co-coordinator Emily Klein. "This trip is both recreational and educational and helps the new class of River Stewards understand more fully how the region is connected by our river system."

The Rivers Institute is a student-led initiative coordinated by UD's Fitz Center for Leadership in Community. After spending three years in development behind the scenes, the institute has begun making waves in the region with the passage of three public milestones:

Creation of a four-year, comprehensive action plan in February

Sponsorship of a regional River Summit in April to encourage leaders in cities along the river to create a cohesive vision for recreation and development

The launching of a new Web site at

"The city of Dayton is leaving behind a 20th century industrial model and must embrace a new way of thinking," said institute co-coordinator Tim Shaffer. "The Rivers Institute, along with our partners, is looking at our natural environment to bring the region together and envision a river corridor that connects cities through economic growth, community building and recreational opportunities."

Rivers Institute community partners include the Miami Conservancy District, Five Rivers MetroParks and the Dayton Early College Academy.

For more information, contact Meagan Pant, assistant director of news and communications, at 937-229-3256 or