Ohio River Recreation Trail River Town Review will enhance outdoor recreation for Lawrenceburg and Aurora

ORRT River Town Review Aurora

Ohio River Recreation Trail members (left to right) Brewster Rhoads, Jack Sutton and Dr. David Wicks toured the City of Aurora with Mayor Mark Drury (second from right) during the River Town Review site visit to the city on May 6, 2021. Photo by Mike Perleberg.

(Dearborn County, Ind.) – Outdoor recreation and tourism experts are providing strategies and recommendations to enhance Lawrenceburg and Aurora, Indiana as top destinations for boaters, paddlers and cyclists along the Ohio River.

The Ohio River Recreation Trail (ORRT), in partnership with the National Park Service, welcomed cities and towns on the river to participate in its first ever River Town Review program in 2020 and 2021. The ORRT is a new, volunteer-led organization seeking to create a 274-mile land and waterway self-guided adventure trail that connects people to opportunities for outdoor adventure, recreation, and discovery on and along the river from Portsmouth, Ohio to West Point, Kentucky.

“The River Town Review program, designed by the National Park Service, helps communities identify their outdoor recreation assets and prioritize projects which could improve the quality of life for their residents while attracting visitors from throughout the Midwest,” said Brewster Rhoads, Co-Chair of the Ohio River Recreation Trail.

All are welcomed to attend the free River Town Review Virtual Summit on Thursday, October 14, 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Participants will hear from leaders of the Ohio River Recreation Trail project and communities which participated in the River Town Review program. Pre-register online at https://bit.ly/3EB1Boz to receive the virtual meeting link.

The cities of Aurora and Lawrenceburg in Dearborn County, Indiana were among the nine communities accepted for the River Town Review. Coordinating organization One Dearborn Economic Development also involved participation by Dearborn County Convention Visitor & Tourism Bureau, Main Street Aurora, Lawrenceburg Main Street and Oxbow Inc.

ORRT River Town Review Lawrenceburg

Lawrenceburg Mayor Kelly Mollaun (center) was joined by the local stakeholders in welcoming the Ohio River Recreation Trail members who toured the city for River Town Review program on May 6, 2021. Photo by John Nation.

“The City of Lawrenceburg’s riverfront along the Ohio River has been the most underutilized asset in the region with tremendous potential as a natural resource for tourism, economic development, trail connectivity, as well as quality of life and environments in southeast Indiana,” said Lawrenceburg Mayor Kelly Mollaun. “The Ohio River Recreational Trail has tremendous potential as a regional asset attracting dynamic patrons and serving as a downtown business district anchor within the tri-state region of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. We look forward to continuing the local riverfront development work in progress and prioritizing future action items within the River Town Review report focused on improving the riverfront to provide a regional recreational destination, create a more exciting place to spur economic growth, and contribute to more residents seeking Lawrenceburg as their new home.”

“The River Town Review process gave us the opportunity to look at our sometimes overlooked assets as being part of a larger Ohio River corridor. This was a way to showcase our attributes and put out the welcome mat for the world. Thanks to the efforts of those who had the vision to put all this together,” Aurora Mayor Mark Drury added.

During the spring and summer of 2021, the River Town Review team of professional planners from the ORRT, U.S. National Park Service and Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Experience conducted site visits, met with local leaders and stakeholders, and held brainstorming sessions to identify the unique opportunities and challenges for each participating community. In August, the River Town Review team distilled the information gathered into final reports outlining the process, their observations and findings, and a list of immediate action items, short-term ideas, and long-term ideas to pursue.

The River Town Review reports for Aurora and Lawrenceburg are available for public viewing at www.1dearborn.org/reports. The action items and ideas identified in both cities’ reports included the following, and more:

  • Partner with other Ohio River cities for joint tourism marketing promoting cluster recreational assets;
  • Designate a canoe/kayak launch area on the river close to the downtown area;
  • Create an annual paddle and pedal event with neighboring communities, perhaps utilizing the Dearborn Trail;
  • Place signage facing the river announcing to boaters and paddlers their arrival in the city and inviting them to explore downtown;
  • Encourage bicycling by placing additional bike racks, bike lanes, and designation of “loop routes” around town;
  • Add proper signage for boating access to the Ohio River and tributary creeks;
  • Plan for future upgrades and repairs of the Dearborn Trail;
  • Explore opportunities to secure riverfront development funds as destination attractions through the state and federal funding sources identified in the report;
  • Incorporate the Ohio River Recreation Trail in city information kiosks;
  • Incorporate activities on or around the Ohio River into festivals;
  • Consider more programming and events to engage residents and visitors in outdoor recreation;
  • List businesses and amenities for outdoor recreation on the ORRT Digital Guide to the Ohio River;
  • Enroll in the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Community Partner Program;

An ancillary benefit of the River Town Review to the communities and participating organizations were the site visit photos provided by professional photographers Joe Wolek and John Nation. 

The River Town Review marked the second outdoor recreation-related project One Dearborn has undertaken in as many years. In 2020, the organization partnered with Jack Sutton, a member of the ORRT steering committee, to produce the Dearborn County Trails Report. It was through the trail report with Sutton that One Dearborn came to learn about the ORRT project and the River Town Review.

“The Ohio River Recreation Trail is a thoughtful and ambitious initiative to preserve and promote the Ohio River as a destination for various forms of recreation – much like a national park,” said Mike Perleberg, executive director of One Dearborn. “Thanks to their participation in the River Town Review, Lawrenceburg, Aurora and Dearborn County can be considered early adopters of the Trail and position themselves to gain from the tourism and talent attraction benefits it can bring.”

Learn more about the Ohio River Recreation Trail at www.ohioriverrecreationtrail.org. There, visitors can find the “Digital Guide to the Ohio River.” Developed in partnership with the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments, this tool is designed to help boaters, paddlers, anglers, cyclists and motorists safely explore the Ohio and its historic river communities.

For more information on One Dearborn or to access the Dearborn County Regional Economic Development Plan, visit www.1dearborn.org.