Next Steps Emerge at River Summit

Apr 9, 2015

The Deck at Hall's Gas House sits along the St. Mary's River in Fort Wayne.
Credit Tri-State Watershed Alliance

Thursday’s 2015 River Summit talks in Fort Wayne included everything from  urban flooding to cover crop training, as well as next steps in the City’s riverfront development process.

One big theme of the River Summit was balance. Rather than an either/or conversation, stakeholders discussed development and the environment.

Keith Bowers is President of Biohabitats, which focuses on sustainable designs, and systems approaches to the environment - something he says Fort Wayne needs. His company works to re-vegetate river banks and restore wetlands.

Bowers says it’s not too late for Fort Wayne, but a lot of damage has been done.

“We have overdeveloped too close to these rivers,” says Bowers, “so it may take time to gain back that land or gain back that space, and maybe that takes a generation or two to actually do that.”

It’s been about two months since the City of Fort Wayne revealed its grand vision  for riverfront development. But while new promenades and green spaces may be  on the horizon – first comes step one.

Don Steininger is with the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, and part  of the City’s task force to figure out how to get development off the ground.

The task force is in the process of raising $2 million in private money, which  will be matched with $1 million from the Lilly Foundation.

“Fortunately or unfortunately when you start something like this, you will  probably spend twenty percent of the dollars just finding out all the information," says Steininger.  "Right now for example, the very first thing we did, we are going to prove it today,  is a contract to study and tell us what we need to do to the river banks  specifically.”

The Community Foundation approved more than $40,000 for a  comprehensive environmental study to be completed this year. Steininger hopes  the multi­year process of cleaning and re­vegetating will start this fall.

Steininger says the biggest challenge will be keeping people interested and excited  about the rivers throughout the long process