Scenic preservation: Ohio Scenic Rivers program began in 1968; Sandusky was second designated

PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON A view of the Sandusky River from Schekelhoff Nature Preserve near the end of North Water Street in Tiffin.

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional kickoff to all things summer, and Christina Kuchle invites everyone to enjoy the Sandusky River this year during the 50th anniversary of the Ohio Scenic Rivers program.

“Ohio’s designated state scenic rivers are important because they provide conservation and recreational resources to the communities they flow through,” said Kuchle, northwest Ohio Scenic Rivers manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Ohio has about 60,000 miles of streams, and the Scenic Rivers program protects about 800 river miles. Kuchle oversees the Sandusky and Maumee rivers.

“These streams are special not just for their biological quality, but because the communities along their banks cared about these resources so dearly they sought Scenic Rivers designation to see their waterway protected,” she said.

The Sandusky River was the second river in Ohio to be designated — 48 years ago, in 1970.

During designation, criteria taken into consideration include stream length, adjacent forest cover, biological characteristics, water quality, present use and natural conditions.

Ohio cannot mandate scenic river designation, so enrollment is led by citizens in communities.

“All of Ohio’s 14 designated State Scenic Rivers are conservation successes enabled by partnership between citizens, private entities, non-profit organizations and government agencies,” Kuchle said. “2018 is an opportunity to celebrate 50 years of success and grow support for the next 50 years.”

Ohio pioneered the national river conservation movement when legislators passed the nation’s first Scenic River Act Feb. 28, 1968.

“Ohio’s wild, scenic and recreational river areas create some of the best places for people to fish, hunt, paddle, watch birds or relax,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer in a February news release. “We appreciate the vision of those legislators, constituents and ODNR employees who 50 years ago recognized how important our rivers are, and continue to be, in Ohio.”

One of the goals of the 50th anniversary is to educate people on the Scenic Rivers program.

“The biggest event we have coming up is the ‘Call of the Scenic River’ film screening on May 30,” Kuchle said. “The event is designed to foster community involvement in conservation activities. For folks who are especially interested in conservation issues, this event will provide information regarding the government and non-government organizations working on a variety of conservation projects.”

The film features footage of several of Ohio’s designated State Scenic Rivers, she said.

Partnering with the Scenic River program on the film are Black Swamp Conservancy, 577 Foundation and Partners for Clean Streams. The free screening is to take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Maumee Indoor Theatre, Maumee. Doors open at 6 p.m.

The film tells the tale of Ohio as the first state to declare a Scenic Rivers program in 1968, and how the state continues to lead river conservation. The film follows Ohio filmmaker Tom Mayor’s journey as he experiences Ohio’s scenic rivers and learns first-hand about non-point-source pollution and the ecological and economic impact of water quality. Produced by veteran Ohio cinematographers Mike King and Adam White, and including underwater footage by Mayor, the film captures the stunning and natural beauty of the rivers, the historical perspective of water quality and the modern conditions affecting watershed ecosystems.

The film also describes how the program has partnered with private property owners, non-profit organizations and governmental organizations to conserve Ohio’s remaining high quality rivers and streams.

“The film celebrates Ohio’s scenic waterways, while exploring the historical perspective of water quality and modern conditions affecting watershed ecosystems,” said Julie Pompa, events and communications coordinator for Black Swamp Conservancy.

The evening is to feature displays from local environmental and conservation organizations and a panel discussion, as well as the film. Panelists include Bob Gable, Ohio Scenic Rivers program manager, and Tim Schetter, director of natural resources for Metroparks Toledo.

Organizations taking part with information about conservation efforts include Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments, ODNR Division of Wildlife, Toledo Rain Garden Initiative, Sacred Grounds and the Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor.

In addition to the film, Kuchle invites people to take part in other programs set for this summer in northwest Ohio:

• Saturday – Perrysburg Fishing Derby, 8 a.m.-noon, Three Meadows Park, 300 3 Meadows Drive, Perrysburg. Free.

• June 8 – Stream Quality Monitoring Workshop, 1-3 p.m., Lucas County, Providence Metropark along the Maumee River. Meet next to the Providence Dam shelter. Contact Nicole Sarver to register, or (614) 570-4372.

• June 13 – Stream Quality Monitoring Workshop, noon-2 p.m., Indian Mill Park, 7417 CR 47, Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County. Meet on the side of the Sandusky River opposite of the historic mill. Contact Nicole Sarver to register, or (614) 570-4372.

• June 16 – Anniversary Canoe Venture, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Otsego Park, 20000 W. River Road, Bowling Green. Wood County parks and ODNR naturalists lead a 10-mile canoe trip to celebrate 50 years. Meet at Otsego Park for outfitting and briefing before paddling to Farnsworth Metropark for lunch and a lesson on the history of Missionary Island from metroparks staff. Then, paddle to Buttonwood Park before being transported back to Otsego. Register through Wood County Park District,

• June 23 – Woodland Wildlife Festival in conjunction with the River Front Gathering, Defiance, Pontiac Park, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Kids “River Passport” activities and nature displays by northwest Ohio’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts as well as river critters on display by Scenic Rivers.

• June 30 – Sandusky River Watershed Coalition annual meeting, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sandusky River Coon Hunters Club, 7575 S. TR 131, Tiffin, next to Walnut Grove Campground. Informative, family-friendly event featuring activities for children and adults to learn about the Sandusky River. To register, visit

• July 8 – Paddle Palooza, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Maumee Bay State Park, 1400 State Park Road, Oregon. ODNR Paddle Palooza festivals are an opportunity for people to try a variety of canoes and kayaks and learn stand-up paddle boarding. Experts are to be on hand to share information about local paddling activities and resources.

• July 21 – Wood County and Scenic Rivers Canoe Float. Details at

• Aug. 10 – Stream Quality Monitoring Workshop, 1-3 p.m., Lucas County, Providence Metropark. See above registration information.

• Aug. 18 – Wood County and Scenic Rivers Canoe Float. Details at

• Aug. 22 – Stream Quality Monitoring Workshop, 4-6 p.m., Indian Mill Park, 7417 CR 47, Upper Sandusky, Wyandot County. Meet on the side of the Sandusky River opposite of the historic mill. Contact Nicole Sarver to register, or (614) 570-4372.

For a list of events happening in other parts of Ohio, visit