BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Herb Delventhal didn’t kayak until 2000, but has boated, skated and waded the Maumee River for most of his 89 years. And while the longtime Waterville resident now lives in Defiance, he returned on May 16 to Farnsworth Metropark for the dedication of the Maumee River Water Trail.
“It takes two hours to kayak around the island,” he said, pointing out to Missionary Island.
While Delventhal, the founder of the Northwest Ohio Canoe and Kayak Club, knows the river well, first-time visitors and even those who have grown up along the Maumee don’t always know enough about its rapids, deep waters, put-in spots and other features to feel comfortable heading out in a boat.
With last week’s dedication of the Maumee River Water Trail – the state’s 11th such designation since 2006 – getting around on the water got a lot easier, said Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Scott Sharpe.
“The goal is to connect Indiana to Maumee Bay,” he said, noting that the 107-mile trail includes signage, mile markers, maps and other printed and online resources to help canoers and kayakers chart their trips. Paddlers can find spots to rest, use a restroom, camp or explore. Maps also mark areas where paddlers must portage around a dam or watch out for rapids.
The Water Trails designation was the effort of the ODNR, Metroparks Toledo and every municipality along the route.
Bill Burkett of Waterville Township recalled floating in inner tubes from Waterville to the bay.
“I didn’t know what time it was or when I would get home,” said Burkett, who is also the director of Toledo’s department of economic and business development.
Sharpe recalls spending summers fishing for walleye in deep waters south of Farnsworth. Like any Ohio waterway, the Maumee River has the potential to increase tourism and boost the economy, he said. Paddling is a growing sport in Ohio, with watercraft registrations increasing by 192 percent in the past 10 years.
While Burkett and Sharpe spoke of childhood exploration along the river, not everyone has had those experiences, pointed out Metroparks board vice president Lear Doneghy.
“I grew up in the inner city. The water was far from me, and I generally had a fear of water,” she said. “As we progressed with this project, I learned to kayak. It’s most gratifying. The Maumee really is the lifeblood of our community.”
Anglers come to the Maumee for walleye and white bass fishing. Birders come to seek migrating songbirds. Walkers, runners and bikers hit the trails along the river. With the Water Trails signage, paddlers will be able to venture further – even stopping to camp on Granger Island, she pointed out.
The island features a cabin, outhouse and two tent platforms, thanks to the work of construction students from Penta Career Center. Camping will be permitted later this summer.
While Penta students typically build a house each year – to give those in carpentry, masonry, plumbing and electricity an opportunity for hands-on experience – the project fell through at the last minute, said instructor Jason Vidra. Instead, the Penta students had a unique opportunity to build on the Metroparks-owned island. Getting there was an adventure, Vidra said with a laugh. Superintendent Ron Matter purchased waders for the students to use – which worked until winter and high waters prevented the completion until recently.
Standing along the river for the ribbon-cutting, senior Devondre Prince spoke about the unique experience.
“I loved the whole thing,” he said. “And we saw an almost all-white deer and a few others.”
During the opening ceremonies last week, visitors were also able to see a three-cornered tent suspended from trees. These type of tents will be used for pop-up camping opportunities in areas where camping is not typically permitted, said marketing director Matt Killam. He expects those camping experiences to be rolled out by the end of June.
For more information, visit www.metroparkstoledo.com.