By MARILYN McCONAHAY
For Miami Valley Today
TROY — Members of Great Miami Riverway met Friday morning at Troy’s Hobart Arena at their 2019 Riverway Summit, sharing marketing strategies among their member organizations.
Members come from a 99-mile stretch of the river, which features paved trails and connected communities, from Sidney to Hamilton, Ohio.
This summit, presented by The Troy Foundation, is an important part of Riverway’s operations.
“As our signature annual event, Riverway Summit is a chance for community leaders throughout our five counties to get inspired about new ways to collaborate as a region,” said Elizabeth Connor, coordinator of Dayton’s Great Miami Riverway, prior to the event.
“This year in particular, we are seeing a large number of new attendees from all across the state and have set event records for attendees and exhibitors,” Connor said. “We continue to gain momentum and we’re excited to share this commitment to economic development for Ohio’s only National Water Trail and the nation’s largest paved trail network with key stakeholders throughout Ohio.”
Defining Riverway’s existence, Connor said, “Our goals are to increase use of recreational, historical, and cultural assets; to attract more visitor partners in five counties; to support economic development and to strengthen the river corridor neighborhood.”
During the summit, guest panels and expert speakers on tourism, recreation, and economic development presented a “Showcase of 2018 Achievements” and held discussions on bringing the Riverway brand into new communities.
The event began at 8 a.m. and came to a close around 1:30 p.m., featuring keynote speaker Elizabeth Fogarty, director of Visit Grand Junction, Colorado Tourism Marketing Committee member and Colorado Tourism Regional Task Force member.
Sharing information on the growth of Visit Grand Junction, Fogarty described strategies for growth. She emphasized one of the clearest messages from Colorado’s 20-plus, face-to-face, strategic statewide listening sessions was a frustration with both the configuration and naming of Colorado’s seven travel regions.
“By embarking on a statewide regional branding project, the Colorado Tourism Office was able to work with tourism industry partners in every corner of the state to learn about the unique aspects of each region — and discover how to effectively market travel offerings within these regions to visitors,” Fogarty said.
“This was a truly collaborative effort that included surveying more than 1,240 residents, holding more than 20 statewide listening workshops and analyzing thousands of online data sets.”
Other speakers were from Dayton Children’s Hospital, the Miami County Park District, Premier Health-Upper Valley Medical Center and Miami County Public Health (MCPH), speaking about the importance of outdoor, nature-based activities.
J. Scott Myers, Miami County Park District executive director, moderated a session on a new program called “Children’s RX for Nature.” Panelists were Scott B. Kanagy, Chief Medical Officer at Premier Health Upper Valley Medical Center, and family physician James Burkhardt, director of Medicine at Miami County Public Health.
Local physicians will soon be prescribing nature to children across Miami County to benefit children’s heath, both mentally and physically.
“Don’t be surprised if next time you take your child to the doctor, they receive a prescription for outdoor nature play,” Myers said.
The program is one of the first of its kind in the region and was designed to raise awareness of the importance of outdoor, nature-based activities as a complement to disease prevention and treatment strategies already in place.
As children spend less time in a natural environment, they miss key opportunities for physical activity, stress reduction, attention restoration, and healthy development, Myers explained.
Burkhardt said one in five children develop adult health issues like cardiovascular and mental health issues.
Kanagyy pledged UVMC will be an important partner in implementing this program. By the beginning of May, patients will see posters promoting the Children’s Rx for Nature program in the physicians’ offices.
The panel members and Myers agreed that mom and dad can only so much, but if a doctor tells a child to go outside and play, the child will do it.
To emphasize the importance of this program, Burkhardt said statistics show that obesity rates are climbing and with issues like blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol rising. He said some are taking five medicines before they are adults.
“It’s worse here than in other parts of the country,” he said.
Agreeing that partnership provides credibility, Kanagy said, “We will expand it any way we can.”
“The park district is always looking for ways to partner regionally with organizations that match our mission and can benefit the citizens of Miami County. The Great Miami Riverway is an organization that is important to the region and we love being a part of it,” Myers said.
Riverway members include: City of Sidney, city of Piqua, city of Troy, city of Dayton, city of West Carrollton, city of Miamisburg, city of Franklin, city of Middletown and Visitors Bureau, city of Hamilton, Montgomery County, Miami County, Miami County Park District, Five Rivers MetroParks, MetroParks of Butler County and Miami Conservancy District.
Sponsors of the event included the city of Tipp City, Sidney/Shelby County Visitor Bureau, Miami County Convention and Visitor Bureau, Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission and Gem City Crew.
For more information about Riverway, contact Elizabeth Connor at (937) 223-1271.