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Old October 6th 05, 04:54 PM
Garrison Hilliard
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Default Saturday's a special day for the Little Miami River

Saturday's a special day for the Little Miami River
Park Service recognition came 25 years ago

By Dan Klepal
Enquirer staff writer

LOVELAND - Roland Muhlen's first canoe race was 40 years ago, down the Little
Miami River. On Wednesday, the three-time U.S. Olympic team canoeist from
Bridgetown returned to his watery roots to bring attention to the silver
anniversary of the lower Little Miami River's acceptance into the federal Wild
and Scenic River program.

The 25th anniversary will be celebrated Saturday with a day of music, food,
storytelling and other family activities. The event, at Nisbet Park from noon
until 6 p.m., is free and open to the public.

"My very first competition was on the Little Miami River, and it changed the
focus of my entire adult life," said Muhlen, who was a member of U.S. Olympic
teams in 1972 and 1976 and the 1980 team that boycotted the Games.

It was quite a struggle garnering that designation.

Upon its first look at the lower 28 miles of the river, the National Park
Service cringed. There was illegal dumping, trash and shacks scattered
throughout. The river was promptly rejected from the federal program, created to
protect streams from development that would pollute them.

That rejection energized thousands of people in the area to clean up the river.
Little Miami Inc. worked with politicians to have the shacks removed, and two
years later the lower part of the river was accepted into the federal program.
It remains the only time the Park Service has reversed itself and accepted a
portion of stream it initially rejected.

"When the Park Service first looked at it, they said it was a mess, and that was
all we needed to hear," said Eric Partee, executive director of Little Miami
Inc. "I think that effort is symbolic of the real connection between people and
the river."

After Saturday's celebration, the folks at Little Miami Inc., and other
environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Rivers Unlimited, will have to get
right back to work. That's because the river received another designation this
year - one that environmentalists aren't pleased with.

The national environmental group American Rivers listed the Little Miami as one
of 10 "endangered" rivers in the country because of ongoing pressures from
sewage plants and the planned construction of a highway and new bridge crossing
as part of the $1.4 billion transportation plan called the Eastern Corridor

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has no fewer than three requests for
expanded or new waste-water treatment plants, and has already approved two
others. Officials with OEPA say the amount of phosphorus and ammonia in the
stream is too high.

The permits for expanded sewage plants have carried with them additional
restrictions on those chemicals, forcing the owners to design additional
pollution controls for the plants' discharges.

"It just shows you this is an ongoing labor of love and the challenges before us
are nonstop," Partee said.


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