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Upcoming celebration to commemorate Little Miami River's designation as a 'National Wild and Scenic River' 50 years ago

WYSO's Jerry Kenney speaks with two event organizers from the Little Miami Watershed Network about the upcoming River Festival.

Almost 50 years ago, the Little Miami River received its designation as a National Wild and Scenic River.

It was the first designation of its kind in Ohio and in June that protective status will be celebrated with an event hosted by The Little Miami Watershed Network.

WYSO spoke with two of the organization’s representatives about the event.

Executive Director, Rebecca Victor, who speaks first in the interview, says she believes recent events may be helping to increase environmental awareness.

Rebecca Victor: I think with the sudden experiences that we have with train derailment and things falling and chemicals and loading and manufacturing facilities catching fire, all kinds of things can happen. And there's a greater awareness of the fragility of our environment in this kind of an experience.

Jerry Kenney: You have an event to celebrate this 50th anniversary, and it is on Saturday, June 10, 2023, it's River Festival. Tell us a little bit about that.

Victor: Well, I'm going to go ahead if that's okay, and pass that off to Kathleen Sheltons, who's a co-chair with me on it.

Kathleen Sheltons: Thank you. So, the Little Miami Watershed Network is planning a River Festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Little Miami Rivers National Wild and Scenic River designation. The festival will be held on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at Washington Mill Park in Bellbrook. Our festivities will include a morning canoe race and an afternoon festival, which will include entertainment, educational presentations. A lot of children's activities, we'll have food trucks and about 20 community organizations providing interactive activities, information and resources.

We'll have a stage with a performance from a number of entertainers beginning at noon with bluegrass music by the Cornhuskers at 1:15pm will have a very popular gentleman who goes by the name of Mr. C, and he will do a presentation called Mr. C Alive - It's River Science Time. So, he is the creator and host of a regional Emmy Award winning program called Full Steam Ahead, and he's known for just finding really great ways to explore science in our everyday lives. We will follow that up with the Ohio School of Falconry, and they'll have a program called Raptors and Rivers at 2:15pm, and they are just really amazing. They will have a number of their birds with them and share some really special raptors with us as well. And the event with the Little Miami Watershed Network folks telling us a little bit more about our history and what's going on with our organization.

Kenney: It sounds like a lot going on that day. A lot of great events. Let's jump back really quick to the canoe and kayak race. People will use their own canoes and kayaks and how can they get involved and where can people find out more information?

Victor: They're also going to be adding paddleboard to that. We've had a couple people say, how can we paddleboard? We're like, sure. So, we've set that that category up.

Kenney: That sounds like a lot of work.

Victor: So, they'll bring their own canoes, paddleboards and kayaks. They can go to www.lmwn.org, which is the Little Miami Watershed Network, and then it'll be right there on the front.

Kenney: Can we talk a little bit about other programs or events that you hosted throughout the year that help you with your mission?

Victor: Sure. Sure. One of the things we are kind of, we look toward sustainability so often we go out and we speak to different locations, helping people to just giving them some information. We also offer education where we get people out. We take them on walks that help them to see and understand different things. And we have river cleanups, river cleanups and creeks where people get on the in their boats, in the canoes, and they walk, and they pick up garbage. And a lot of it is like tire pick-ups because we get a lot of tires that they're hauling out of the river.

Kenney: Yeah, you get a lot of response on the river cleanup as well, don't you?

Victor: Yes, we're doing it slightly different this year because last year with the high water, we weren't sure what to expect this year. So, we thought rather than get people excited and then because of the high speed of the water, the height and the speed, they wouldn't be able to do it. And we didn't want them disappointed. So, we thought, let's elongate it through the summer and people can small groups of 8 to 16 can go ahead out on the river and clean and then bring their stuff back and we can take care of it.

Kenney: Oh, that that's terrific. It seems to make sense for a lot of people with busy schedules then.

Victor: Yeah. And it elongates because garbage here, you know, if we clean it here, then somebody's going to be throwing something later. What's important about this one, the distinction of this, Jerry, is it's 50 years in the making. The gentleman who helped actually get this designated as a national scenic river was Glen Thompson, and he was the editor and chief publisher for the Journal Herald. So, back in the sixties, when they worked that out, he was, I think it was 68 that it came in and Ohio actually had its designation. They gave the designation to the little Miami Watershed designation before it became a federal, and what was fascinating is that really that came out, it was the very first river for the state of Ohio, and it was the very first river for federal in the state of Ohio. And it's the only river in the state of Ohio that's actually designated by the entire length of the river.

Kenney: We've been speaking with Rebecca Victor, executive director of the Little Miami Watershed Network, and Kathy Sheltons, co-chair of the River Festival. Again, that will be held on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at Washington Mill Park in Bellbrook. Thank you both so much for your time.

Victor: Thank you Jerry.

Sheltons: Thank you.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.