Eastgate event casts light on Mahoning River

WARREN — Efforts to revitalize the Mahoning River will take center stage today when the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, along with the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber and the Western Reserve Port Authority, host a “Paddle the Mahoning River” event.

The event will include the presentation of a $90,000 check to Eastgate from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Chris Butler to be used for engineering studies of the river. Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer also will be in attendance.

Eastgate will host a 10 a.m. meeting with state and local officials to discuss funding for restoring the river, including the removal of dams. The meeting will be followed by a press conference and a bus tour of sites along the river, culminating in a kayak launch at the B&O Sation in Youngstown.

Jim Kinnick, Eastgate executive director, said the event will showcase the possibilities for development around the river.

“We’re trying to raise awareness by getting the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to hear our story,” said Kinnick. “We want to develop the area along the river and improve the standard of living along the river.”

Guy Coviello, vice president of government affairs for the Regional Chamber, said a revitalized Mahoning River could serve as a destination spot for the area.

“In the near term, we can see lots of recreational enthusiasts using the river on a daily basis for canoeing, kayaking and fishing,” Coviello said.

Longer-term developments might include trails for hiking, biking and walking, restaurants and shops, and nighttime entertainment, he added.

There are nine dams along the river, including three in Warren, three in Youngstown and one in Girard. Dredging of the river and dam removal will allow the Mahoning River to clean itself, Kinnick said.

“When the steel mills moved away, the dams were left in the rivers,” Kinnick said, noting the river was toxic at some point.

Warren mayor Doug Franklin said the event gives local officials a chance to highlight the river’s potential to state officials.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us as public officials and stakeholders to show it still has viability,” Franklin said.