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Photo by Randall L. Schieber
Photo by Randall L. Schieber

Down By The Riverside

Editor’s Note: Last summer, (614) published a three-part series about the Olentangy and Scioto rivers, and their shared journey through time and the city. After an uncontrolled sewage overflow issue, and under threat of lawsuit from the EPA, Columbus began environmental mitigation moves that would set the stage for a revolution of the downtown corridor. The process began with the removal of the Fifth Avenue and Main Street low head dams. Last November, after years of planning, design, and down-and-dirty construction, the downtown Emerald Greenway was unveiled. This summer marks the first full season that Columbusites will have unfettered access to their very own waterfront. This month, (614) heads back out on the water for a timely update on this summer’s aquatic agenda. Through interviews and insights from two adventurers leading the charge down to the banks, we hope to invite residents and visitors alike to become acquainted with the newest addition to our hometown landscape. Come on in, the water’s fine.

Domenic Buccilla radiates a frequency of light that can’t be accurately described as a mere positive glow. When he talks about HERO USA, the non-profit he runs with his long time friend, Michael Bain, the warmth he exudes is palpable. These are men on a mission: to provide opportunities for under-resourced kids to participate in adventure sports. They help Columbus children who may otherwise never have the opportunity to get out on snowboards, skis, skateboards, and paddling in canoes and kayaks.

“All these adventure sports are things that our under-served populations just don’t have access to. Since our beginning, The Boys and Girls Club of Columbus has been our main partner. They actually gave us our start when Michael and I first founded our program in ’09. Some of the kids that first participated in our program now come back and volunteer for us.”

Helping to propel their mission of inclusivity and stewardship, HERO USA is teaming up with Sweetwater Brewery and Woodlands Backyard to host their Save the Scioto river cleanup initiative. There will be a series of five cleanups throughout the summer.

“For each cleanup, we’re looking for a local partner, be it a small business, a corporation, or a club. It’s a chance to get their employees out on the water and do some team building, and also as a way for local businesses to give back to the community.”

The cleanup consists of a four and a half mile paddle, where volunteers will have an opportunity to have a direct impact on the health of the ecosystem surrounding the river corridor just North of the city. The trip will pull up just behind Woodlands Backyard, and volunteers can head

The most novel and perhaps the most beautiful way to see our skyline will now be from the surface of the waters that run through downtown. Daris has been at the helm of the movement for change at the riverfront, but she knows her work is still cut out for her.

“We compete for talent with larger cities like Boulder and Chicago—lots of these big cities have really nice river fronts. In order to help Columbus compete, we need to continue to invest in our riverfront and keep it as the show piece that it is becoming.”

Domenic and Lisa are shining examples of the environmental and social stewardship that has helped pave the way for our city’s changing profile. They hold the waters and the people of this city in high regard, and can help tell the story of the rivers to the residents that come down to experience them for the first time in their new iteration. They already know what the people of Columbus and the businesses they own and patronize are coming to learn: where the water flows, so go the people. •

from the cleanup to an after party. There will be beer from Sweetwater, and Woodlands will provide a live band as a thank you to anyone who participates in the cleanup event. The proceeds from the event help fund HERO USA’s programming that works to get under-served populations out on the water in a safe and inclusive environment.

“Michael and I are very grateful to be even a small piece of this puzzle. As the city continues to move forward, we’re able to offer what we do. We’re able to hopefully give people here an opportunity to experience all the great things in our city that the recreation and parks department are putting together.”

The opening of the riverfront recreation areas comes at a time when the Columbus metro area population has just topped two million people—and is continuing to grow at a rapid rate.

“I’d like to think that is a big part of why people want to move to Columbus; the work the city has done to create these green spaces and create the greenways trails. If I’m not on my boat, paddling, I’m probably on my bike, pedaling. With the advent of this project, I’m proud to be an Ohioan, I’m proud to be a Columbusite. I remember coming down to the river with my dad, and coming down here with my Grandpa. Seeing the dedication of our city to the restoration process of the riverfront downtown makes me so proud.”

Buccilla is far from alone in his mission to introduce residents of the capital city to what the water has to offer. Lisa Daris sits on the board of FLOW (Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed), as well as Columbus Outdoor Pursuits. She sports a blonde trail of sun-kissed curls and mud flecked galoshes straight from the river. She arrived at our interview straight from teaching a group of fourth graders about water conservation. Daris, who grew up along the Cuyahoga River, is passionate about the conservation of waterways and passing her experience on to the next generation of stewards. She has big plans for the rivers this summer.

“We’re hoping to pilot a week long summer camp this year, loosely based on the story of the Lorax. There will be STEM curriculum involved. Instead of being in a classroom talking about STEM related learning objectives, their classroom will be the river.” Daris partnered with the Ohio River Foundation to design a river-based education and adventure course that will be open to the public. Parents can sign their kids up for the week-long day camp and drop them off each morning knowing they are in good hands. The students will complete safety training before heading out on their science excursions.

“We play it very safe.” Daris says “90 percent of our customers have never paddled before.”

For the grownups who are itching to get out in a kayak or on a bike, Franklinton Cycle Works and Olentangy Paddle will be holding “Paddle and Pedal” events. Participants get in a boat at North Bank Park and paddle through the downtown corridor to Whittier, then they can catch the greenways trail back up to North Bank Park. To lead them back on the bike trail, there will be a guide versed in Columbus history to show off landmarks and share some local urban lore.

Though the evolving face of the river and its surrounding banks and greenspace has come a long way, there is still something left to be desired. The lack of bathrooms and concessions at the park has been unnoticeable until now, as the foot traffic in the area has only begun to increase. By the time summer hits, there will be empty spaces where Columbus’ famous food trucks could make a killing, and Port-O-Johns will be sorely missed.

Editor’s Note: Last summer, (614) published a three-part series about the Olentangy and Scioto rivers, and their shared journey through time and the city. After an uncontrolled sewage overflow issue, and under threat of lawsuit from the EPA, Columbus began environmental mitigation moves that would set the stage for a revolution of the downtown corridor. The process began with the removal of the Fifth Avenue and Main Street low head dams. Last November, after years of planning, design, and down-and-dirty construction, the downtown Emerald Greenway was unveiled. This summer marks the first full season that Columbusites will have unfettered access to their very own waterfront. This month, (614) heads back out on the water for a timely update on this summer’s aquatic agenda. Through interviews and insights from two adventurers leading the charge down to the banks, we hope to invite residents and visitors alike to become acquainted with the newest addition to our hometown landscape. Come on in, the water’s fine.

Domenic Buccilla radiates a frequency of light that can’t be accurately described as a mere positive glow. When he talks about HERO USA, the non-profit he runs with his long time friend, Michael Bain, the warmth he exudes is palpable. These are men on a mission: to provide opportunities for under-resourced kids to participate in adventure sports. They help Columbus children who may otherwise never have the opportunity to get out on snowboards, skis, skateboards, and paddling in canoes and kayaks.

“All these adventure sports are things that our under-served populations just don’t have access to. Since our beginning, The Boys and Girls Club of Columbus has been our main partner. They actually gave us our start when Michael and I first founded our program in ’09. Some of the kids that first participated in our program now come back and volunteer for us.”

Helping to propel their mission of inclusivity and stewardship, HERO USA is teaming up with Sweetwater Brewery and Woodlands Backyard to host their Save the Scioto river cleanup initiative. There will be a series of five cleanups throughout the summer.

“For each cleanup, we’re looking for a local partner, be it a small business, a corporation, or a club. It’s a chance to get their employees out on the water and do some team building, and also as a way for local businesses to give back to the community.”

The cleanup consists of a four and a half mile paddle, where volunteers will have an opportunity to have a direct impact on the health of the ecosystem surrounding the river corridor just North of the city. The trip will pull up just behind Woodlands Backyard, and volunteers can head

The most novel and perhaps the most beautiful way to see our skyline will now be from the surface of the waters that run through downtown. Daris has been at the helm of the movement for change at the riverfront, but she knows her work is still cut out for her.

“We compete for talent with larger cities like Boulder and Chicago—lots of these big cities have really nice river fronts. In order to help Columbus compete, we need to continue to invest in our riverfront and keep it as the show piece that it is becoming.”

Domenic and Lisa are shining examples of the environmental and social stewardship that has helped pave the way for our city’s changing profile. They hold the waters and the people of this city in high regard, and can help tell the story of the rivers to the residents that come down to experience them for the first time in their new iteration. They already know what the people of Columbus and the businesses they own and patronize are coming to learn: where the water flows, so go the people. •

To sign up for a river cleanup or a stand up paddle board or kayaking excursion with HERO USA, or to become a volunteer, visit herousa.org. To sign up for kids summer camp, a Paddle and Pedal session, or a kayaking trip or lessons, visit Olentagy Paddle at olentangypaddle.com.

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