Tours of the two dams were held Saturday, sponsored by the Kent League of Women Voters and the Kent Environmental Council. The purpose was to give residents a chance to examine the problems of the Cuyahoga River more closely while enjoying the natural areas surrounding the dam sites.
Another forum sponsored by the league and KEC, called "Rally Round the River," will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at Stanton Middle School.
In Kent, a panel of speakers including Kent Mayor John Fender, Parks and Recreation Director John Idone, Bob Wysenski of the Ohio EPA and Bob Brown, manager of the Kent Water Reclamation Facility, addressed participants. Most of the discussion took place in a parking lot just outside Riveredge Park because, speakers said, the rush of water would make it difficult to hear next to the river.
Idone said that noise is what makes Riveredge Park special.
"It deadens the noise of the urban streets," he said. "You come down here and all of a sudden, you're in tune with nature."
Idone and Cathy Ricks, a naturalist with parks and recreation, called for the waterfall to remain, noting that children who tour the area regularly walk away talking about the waterfall.
"Last year, I had a child say to me, 'You know, this is so beautiful, it's almost like a video game,' " Ricks said. "That meant a lot to me because I knew she saw a lot more video games than she did nature."
However, the Ohio EPA has recommended modifying the Kent dam by opening the gates and perhaps adding a third, meaning the water would flow around the dam instead of flowing over it. In Munroe Falls, recommendations call for the 12-foot dam to be lowered to five feet, turning the waterfall into a "significant water feature."
Bob Wysenski said the river doesn't meet the standards of the clean water act because of a lack of oxygen behind the dam, because there aren't enough different types of species living in that portion of the river, and because the dams present a barrier to fish swimming upstream. Options that call for more oxygen in the dam pool address just one concern.
"It's not just about flow," he said.
Kent is looking into hiring a consultant to study various alternatives. In Munroe Falls, a consultant is already studying the possibility of lowering the dam.
Mayor Gerald Hupp of Munroe Falls said the city is also looking at the purchase of land surrounding the dam for park land. The town has had a dam along the river since the 1830's, he said.
Residents who viewed the Munroe Falls dam saw the natural river channel cut through two large pools of algae on each side.
"That natural river channel is screaming," Wysenski said. "It's saying,
'Let me out.' "