“Our Three Rivers”: a special report

May 6th, 2016

News Coverage:

May 5, 2016

"Our Three Rivers": a special report

Jeff Neumeyer | WPTA 21 Alive

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- Seeing is believing.

It's a well-worn phrase that may be key in helping you connect with Fort Wayne's signature waterways.

    There are big plans to make the Saint Mary’s, St. Joseph and Maumee Rivers a magnet, not just for tourists, but you and me also, which is the subject of a special report we pursued, entitled, “Our Three Rivers”.

    Dan Wire, with the Tri-State Watershed Alliance, says if you want people to buy into the notion the rivers are a top attraction, they need to be freshened up and you've got to stop hiding the treasured assets.

    We've done lots of stories on what the riverfront promenade might look like, offering dining and entertainment.

    Less attention has been paid to the fact dense vegetation on the riverbanks tends to obscure the winding waterways from trail walkers and people in cars passing over bridges near the city's core.

    Wire says a plan is being carried out to carve out what are called, "view sheds".

    We're talking about clearing out openings in trees and underbrush to provide better views of the river, and better views of the picturesque downtown from the water itself.

    Wire says an IPFW intern a few years back made an observation that has stuck with him.

    “She basically said this, if people could see the river, they'd think about using the river. And if they used the rivers, then they'll care about the rivers. And I think that's the magic piece."

    There is vegetation native to the riverbanks, but a lot of it has been choked out by invasive underbrush creating a real nuisance.

    The city plans to spend $600,000 over the next two years to clear out Honeysuckle and other undesirable plant life.

    The plan also encourages growth of things like Red Osier Dogwood and Marshmallow, which grow in a more controlled way and help stave off bank erosion.

    Alec Johnson, a Fort Wayne Parks Department landscape architect, is playing a key role and wants to tap into more volunteers to clear brush and do work to protect trees being attacked by animals living along the rivers.

    "We're having some issues with beavers that are taking down these gigantic cottonwood trees, so we're going to leave the beavers alone, but we're going to protect the trees, there's hardware cloth that volunteers will be able to wrap around some of these bigger cottonwoods and protect those trees from wildlife," Johnson said.

    Another problem that creates a real eyesore on the rivers is debris that bunches up behind bridge piers.

    One idea being explored involves seeing if the city and county might go together to purchase a barge fitted with a scoop that could navigate right up to the debris jams and clear them out much quicker and at a lower cost than hiring contractors to do the work from the bridge deck above.