The Mahoning River license plates never flourished and neither did the proposed $100 million cleanup the plates supported. But dam removal has increased flow and self-cleaning has begun as the river makes progress toward recreational development and industrial redevelopment.
Members of the organization Friends of the Mahoning River have recently explored a seven-mile paddle trip along the river from below the Girard-McDonald viaduct to the B&O Station in Youngstown.
Over Memorial Day weekend, Boy Scouts, club members and volunteers spent time cleaning and creating a temporary launch area in Girard to prepare for the trip. A dock in Youngstown at the B&O was refurbished by the Friends in 2013.
Also recently, Friends took part in the Mahoning Riverfest, an event at the B&O Station that celebrated the rejuvenation of the Mahoning River. They gave about 150 canoe or kayak rides. Riders came from as far as New York.
Last year First Energy removed 12 concrete piers that spanned the river one mile below Lowellville. They served as a rail line and low head dam. Along with the piers, the company and Lowellville removed more than 30 truckloads of logs and debris that had become caught on the structures.
That removal has opened a safe route for another river group, the Mahoning River Paddlers, who now are growing as more people recognize the value in an improving natural resource.
Dam removal also has created such a rushing flow that the river is cleaning itself. Not long ago, a campaign was underway for a $100 million Army Corps of Engineers cleanup. License plates were created to raise money to help the Mahoning Valley raise its $30 million share.
The fundraising was unsuccessful, but the river is becoming successful anyway. In addition to increased recreational use lately, the Mahoning River Corridor Mayors Association is playing a vital role in brownfield reclamation and in attracting industry, this time much cleaner, to those sites.
The Mahoning River, once an incredible depository for pollutants and debris, is coming back to life.