For the second time this year, the Mad River will be the focal point of a public forum aimed at protecting the 60-plus-mile stream that winds its way southwest from east of Bellefontaine to downtown Dayton.
Sponsored by Trout Unlimited Madmen Chapter (TUMC) and the Mad River Watershed Joint Board, “The Mad River: Finding Common Ground II” forum will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St., Urbana. Following the public forum, attendees will receive free tickets to attend a showing of “A River Runs Through It,” scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the theater.
Tom Allen, executive director of TUMC, said the forums – first one held in April at Ben Logan High School – came about as a way to bring together local conservation groups and the community, from local officials to landowners, to discuss the importance of the Mad River.
“We are trying to encourage local communities along the watershed to get engaged in talks surrounding efforts to protect the river and how protecting it benefits the community in the areas of quality of life and the economy,” Allen said. “The first forum was a success, and we are really hoping elected officials will attend this one because the protection of the Mad River is really important to area communities like West Liberty, Urbana and Springfield.”
Topics of discussion
During Saturday’s forum, experts from various environmental fields are scheduled to take the stage to address a variety of topics including the ins-and-outs of the Mad River Watershed; the economic value of the watershed in terms of tourism and recreational opportunities; the importance and issues surrounding the watershed’s water resources; apathy in the Mad River; precision agriculture (maximizing farm income); climate-smart agriculture; agriculture land use; and the future of the watershed.
“I think the biggest things we are hoping to address are finding a way to move forward to support the watershed group and tackling some action items like bank erosion and the protection of groundwater, all the while making sure not to be a burden on landowners,” Allen said. “Hopefully, we can identify solutions and work together through cooperation to address them. We want to work with landowners to allow land uses to go on, but at the same time still protect the Mad River.”
Allen added the future conservation of the Mad River isn’t just an agricultural issue.
“It also involves how we, as a community, use the land and ensure that runoff water and wastewater entering the river is clean,” he said. “We hope this event jump-starts local communities into getting involved in supporting the watershed and sustaining its quality.”
In keeping with the theme of community, Allen said, organizers of the forum intentionally scheduled some downtime between the panel discussion and the 6:30 p.m. river-themed movie.
“During this time, we are encouraging people to go and patronize local shops and restaurants,” he said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.