YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Around 50 years ago, no one would have considered using the Mahoning River for recreation, because it was one of the most polluted rivers in the United States.
But today, people can now enjoy the outdoors by kayaking or canoeing down the river.
Thursday afternoon, a crew from the Youngstown Fire Department boated down the Mahoning River, placing buoys in strategic spots to warn those in boats of dangerous areas.
“There are three low-head dams along the river that were put there many, many years ago when we had steel mills. You can, in a canoe or a kayak, go over some of them, and some of them you cannot. This helps people distinguish which ones you can and can’t, and how to do it safely,” said Jennifer Jones, coordinator of Green Youngstown.
The group Friends of the Mahoning River came up with the idea of buoys.
“Friends of the Mahoning River is a group that uses the river, both on the shore and on the river itself. They contacted the city of Youngstown, they contacted the mayor and asked us to give them a hand to help newcomers and novices and all the way to advanced to be able to be more safe while using the river,” Jones said.
One buoy is placed 200 feet in front of the Marshall Street Dam, where an arrow already guides people to the safer right side of the dam. The other two buoys are placed above the more dangerous Crescent Street Dam. This is the only dam that goes through Youngstown that kayakers must walk around.
The original plan was to also put two more buoys below the Crescent Street Dam. But, because the current is too strong and the river is too shallow from below, those plans were postponed. Hopefully, new buoys will be placed next week.
“There’s a lot more people using kayaks and canoes on the river now and we just want them to be safe and have a good time,” said Don Rex of Friends of the Mahoning River.
The next step for improvements on the river is to get rid of all the dams.
“They’re just terrible for boaters and they’re deadly, low-head dams, because of the hydraulics,” Rex said.
The buoys were paid with an Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant and the city of Youngstown paid for the anchors. The total coast was $2,000.