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He planned just a short trip,maybe down around a bend and back.

That what Dan Wire had in mind, at least. Finally, after several weeks of asking, Mayor Tom Henry was paying him a visit. Riverfront development was all the rage in local headlines, and Wire thought Henry should see the three rivers which converge at the heart of our city up closeand personal.

told him, I very respectful of your time. How long do you have?’ Wire recalled. told me maybe a half hour or 45 minutes.

Wire took his boat around one bend and Henry asked what was around the next. Then the next. The mayor kept wanting to know what was around the next corner, what could be seen with the next turn, where you could get to by using just our waterways as transportation.

A short trip around the bend turned into a more than three hour excursion.

not saying I changed the mayor opinion on anything, Wire said. Marys, Maumee and St. Joseph rivers in the Fort Wayne area better than Wire, who has spent roughly 60 years living along and traversing the waterways on which the city was founded.

He been on these rivers when boat and raft races were regular things, and he been on these rivers when everyone wondered about water quality and the activities along them long dried up.

There is probably no better advocate for the plans that are drawn up for riverfront development space for businesses, the drive to make the rivers more ecologically friendly or the dreams of a riverfront populated by citizens enjoying a night out in their hometown Wire.

Wire knew he was up against long held beliefs that our river water wasn of high quality, that the brown of our rivers equaled something bad, that anyone who would go swimming in them was nuts and that all they caused Fort Wayne was the pain of flooding.

He knew he had to do what he did with the mayor: get people out to those rivers.

people can see the rivers and use the rivers, they will care about the rivers, Wire said.

Long before the dreams of rooftop terraces and pedestrian bridges as part of a promenade area, and long before the ideasof a pavilion, event lawn, urban bioswale and a dock were designed and mapped out and put on paper as a very real possibility, city leaders saw the value of our rivers all the way back in the early 1900s.

Go to the Main Street Bridge. Find the overlook.

A plaque was dedicated here once to the Fort Wayne Civic Improvement Association. It featured two reclining women of which represents Sleeping the other, Beauty Awakened was put there as testimonial of appreciation by citizens of Fort Wayne of the generosity of Theodore F. Theime who erected the work to awakening of a new civic spirit and the beginning of a general scheme of River Improvement.

Nothing further, however, happened.

At the History Center on Barr Street is a photo from 1921 depicting a man using a giant stick to point up at a picture of the rivers. Wire has used this photo in presentations, an example of how even then city officials had some sort of plan for our rivers.

There also a giant mural inside Citizens Square. Our rivers are big and bold and emblazoned on the giant canvas. Also big and bold are the words Gate, which is what the Native Americans in the area called this spot, as it could essentially connect Montreal to the Wabash Canal and New Orleans.

The mural is adorned with people playing on the waterways, enjoying time on our public beach we had one, in what is now Johnny Appleseed Park everything that could be developed along the banks.

During this time, we built water treatment plants, damsand sewers.

Nothing substantial as far as development happened, though.

not a new idea, said Wire of riverfront development. just kind of come back again. Huge, dramatic differences, according to Wire. The main one being that seasoned professionals are involved who are wanting to help make this development happen in a way that hasn been done before.

Several years ago, around when Tom Henry showed up to take a cruise along the rivers, Wire also took then Deputy Mayor Mark Becker and his wife, Cheri, for a ride along the rivers. Wire brought a grill and the couple prepared food right there on the boat.

Mark Becker later became the head of the riverfront development project and has noted the view from the rivers themselves change your entire outlook of the city. In fact, Henry was so impressed with his cruise he had Wire take many staffers from the mayor office out on his boat, as well.

Officials with the city Parks and Recreation Department have stepped in and helped identify places where wildlife can flourish along the rivers while still allowing for development. Others have identified ways to not exactly preserve the environment along the rivers, but make it better, transforming parts from the mono ecological environment they are today to an area that can support many plants and animals.

These areas will provide natural habitats for our many species along the banks of the rivers, and give people a chance to get a peak of these animals in action.

working beside professionals who really know what they doing, Wire said of development efforts. way more integrated. All of this is a very sound plan.

Nothing can be done, as always, without money.

Backing riverfront development is $10 million in Legacy funding is money invested from the lease and sale of the city old electric power utility approved for phase one of the project. While there is debate about how to use Legacy money on other development projects, without it these riverfront dreams would likely go unrealized, as they did in 1911, 1921 and 1934.
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