ODOT announces river safety initiative

TROY — The Ohio Department of Transportation has announced a river safety initiative aimed at keeping those who use the Great Miami River more aware of their location in the event of an emergency.

During a Wednesday morning press conference on the banks of the Great Miami River in Troy, officials cited several incidences in which those faced with possible drownings or medical emergencies had struggled to pinpoint their location.

Captain James Verdin of the Middletown Fire Department said, “As an emergency responder, I’ve seen firsthand how it is not easy in many circumstances to locate someone in the river. Anything we can do to help more quickly connect recreational paddlers and safety personnel in an emergency, the safer it’s going to be for those who use our waterways. We applaud ODOT’s effort.”

The initiative involves placing signs identifying bridges over the rivers along the Great Miami River within ODOT’s District 7, which serves Auglaize, Champaign, Clark, Darke, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery and Shelby counties. Signs will be placed on all state bridges from Sidney to Hamilton to the Ohio River, according to ODOT District 7 Deputy Director Randy Chevalley.

Providing these street signs on bridges over the Great Miami River is another way District 7 is keeping up with ODOT’s mission to provide safe travel for Ohioans,” Chevalley said. “This project also shows the power of ODOT partnerships with local communities and stakeholders.”

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohioans, in 2020, registered nearly 270,000 paddle craft, ODNR also reported that 26 people lost their lives due to boating accidents in 2020, which is the highest number reported since at least 2017.

We are grateful to ODOT for making the Great Miami River, Ohio’s only federally-designated national water trail, safer for paddlers,” said Duane Gaier, director of the Sidney Parks Department and chair of the Great Miami Riverway Coalition, “We hope ODOT’s example will also encourage local governments who own bridges on the river to follow their lead. Paddlesports in Ohio has exploded in popularity over the last several years and safety initiatives like these will help that trend to continue.

Gaier indicated that Shelby County officials are on board with participating in the placing of signage on their bridges, although no time frame was given.

Miami County Engineer Paul Huelskamp said his office has been studying the issue but has not yet taken any action.