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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

River beautification plans bring channel out of hiding at UT


A University of Toledo commission announced plans to beautify the stretch of the Ottawa River cutting through its main campus by building a boardwalk and landscaping a meadow along its banks.

The commission s report estimates the total cost of upgrading the area around the river at $8.2 million and identifies private donors and government research grants as potential funding sources.

If the university is more attractive, it s more appealing to potential students and gives us a shot at recruiting a larger percentage of those students, said Dick Eastop, the retired UT administrator who is chairman of the commission.

Former UT President Dan Johnson established the commission in 2005 to better integrate the Ottawa River with a campus practically designed to hide its 60-foot-wide channel with concrete and trees.

The 24-person commission presented its report to current UT President Lloyd Jacobs on Dec. 15. It recommended lowering the dike between the Campus View Drive and Library bridges, so that a meadow of native plants could flourish along the resulting flood plain.

A series of 20-foot-wide boardwalks would cross the meadows, which would intersect with patios and decks that have bench seating.

The university would also build a River View Plaza just south of William S. Carlson Library. Other walks and gathering areas along the river would provide opportunities for research, instruction, and socializing.

Though signs posted in 1991 warn that the river is unsafe for swimming, skiing, and other water activities and fishing, 26 fish species and a dozen species of native mussels inhabit the Ottawa. The notion that the river is lifeless and unable to be restored to its former glory is false, the report concludes.

The commission s findings came in part from student focus groups, consultation with Toledo architectural firm The Collaborative, and a trip to Michigan State University, which is enhancing the Red Cedar River through its East Lansing campus.

Mr. Eastop is optimistic that the recommendations will become a reality, but he declined to speculate on a schedule for the project. It s going to take a long time to raise the money, he said. There s no sugar daddy.

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