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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- He has the boat and he has the water, but the twain have yet to meet.
But Bill Mitsch dreams big. The director of Ohio State University's Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, Mitsch was delighted last week as students from a civil engineering class presented plans for a boat dock that would connect the wetlands, situated just north of Ohio State's Columbus campus off of Ackerman Road, with the nearby Olentangy River.
"Having a boat dock on the Olentangy would allow us to extend our research into the river," Mitsch said. "And you should see this plan." It includes a wifi patio on the site where a mill once stood, and the students suggested incorporating hydro and wind power where a turbine could produce the needed electricity. Walkways would connect the floating dock with the wetlands center and nearby city bikeway.
"If we can do this, it will become the crossroads of the river and the bike path," said Mitsch, who is also a scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and a Distinguished Professor of Environment and Natural Resources. "It's something we've wanted to do for a long time. The idea has legs now."
Mitsch said the wetlands research park was lucky enough to have a pontoon boat donated recently by its advisory committee chair Jerry Pauschand his wife, Lenora. "But right now the boat is sitting on the sidewalk. We need a boat dock," Mitsch said. "Now we just need to find the resources to get it built."
Mitsch said the plans are a natural extension of his vision for the Olentangy/Scioto Ecosystem Corridor, an integrated project that would stretch from the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park (ORWRP), where environmental higher education is emphasized, in the north to the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, where K through 12 environmental education is emphasized, to the south. He sees the area becoming an "ecological superhighway" for fish, terrestrial wildlife, birds and humans alike. An ultimate goal would be to have the entire stretch of river appended to the existing designation of the ORWRP as a "Wetland of International Importance" by the International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
"I'd love to see that entire nine-mile stretch being designated as a Ramsar site," Mitsch said. "That kind of international recognition extended beyond the campus would be something."
For more information about the ORWRP, see its website at http://swamp.osu.edu.
Caption: Jerry and Lenora Pausch proudly pose in front of the ORW Natalie, named in honor of their daughter, an Ohio State alumna who died suddenly in 2007. The Pausch's donated the pontoon boat, repainted in Buckeye scarlet and gray, in the hope that the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park could soon expand its research into the nearby river.