River commission makes progress, looks to future projects

January 29, 2009 | Features, UToday
By Shannon Wermer

The President’s Commission on the River was busy during 2008.

Working with UT Facilities, a river overlook and walkway was built near the renovated Savage Arena to promote a more open view of Ottawa River.

Invasive plants and dead ash trees were removed from the riverbanks in the section between the David Root Bridge on Stadium Drive and Douglas Road as part of a selective clearing project.

Norm Braden sprayed a seed mix to the banks of the Ottawa River in late November.

Norm Braden sprayed a seed mix to the banks of the Ottawa River in late November.

The overlook is positioned by the new entrance to Savage Arena and provides a nice gathering place for people to stop and observe the river, according to Dr. Patrick Lawrence, associate professor of geography and planning and chair of the commission.

The banks near the new outlook were seeded in November. The seed mix consisted of native plants that grow on steep, sloping areas and have deep roots to help reduce erosion, Lawrence said. This is a new experiment for UT and a new approach to more sustainable landscaping, he added.

The river commission also established two rain gardens on Main Campus — one north of the Glass Bowl and one north of the International House. The main purpose of the rain gardens is to collect and filter storm water runoff and prevent it from draining directly into the Ottawa River, according to Lawrence. Numerous native plants were placed and a seed mix was applied to both new rain gardens with hopes of spectacular results by this summer, he said.

Lawrence said plans for the future include planning for a river plaza between Carlson Library and the Student Union, assisting with landscaping for a new federally funded research facility to be located near the river, and organizing an informational meeting to discuss the health advisories that were placed on UT’s section of the river more than a decade ago and how it could benefit from improved testing.

These projects are designed to beautify the river, take care of environmental issues affecting the waterway, and improve river access and education efforts, he said.

The river commission has 20 members, including faculty, staff, students and people from the community.

Lawrence knows that the commission can’t fix all of the problems affecting the Ottawa River, but feels confident that the University is doing its part.

For example, he said at last September’s Clean Your Streams event, UT had its own kickoff location with 195 volunteers who, despite pouring rain, picked up some 800 pounds of trash and items from the river on Main Campus.

For more information on the President’s Commission on the River or any of its projects, go to www.utoledo.edu/commissions/river or contact Lawrence at 419.530.4128.

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