bikeIn 1969, there was no way that people could actually walk along the river banks in Kent.  In fact, most citizen action along the banks involved folks dumping their unwanted trash into the river.  In 1970, KEC undertook the development of the Riveredge Park along the banks of the Cuyahoga River through Kent as a means of giving local citizens direct connections with the natural world around them in hopes that they would become stronger advocates for the protection of our local environmental natural heritage. Pictures of our first work session Oct. 1970 show the junk we removed from the Riveredge. The ongoing “trails program” involved building the linear park along the banks of the Cuyahoga River, a strictly voluntary effort in those early days. These efforts were precursors to the refined Riveredge Park we see today going through Kent and connecting with the Portage  Hike and Bike trails that have since been developed, with strong advocacy brought about when citizens saw what they had accomplished and went on to advocate for a continuation of the efforts.

riverSuccessful early projects developed into support for other KEC action programs in later years, and one significant effort was advocating for the City to redesign the Kent Dam to permit the Cuyahoga River to run free.  The Cuyahoga River played a key role in the founding of Kent, and early settlers built small dams to use for water supply and water power for mills, factories, and canals to transport their products and crops to market.  Railroads brought the Canal Era to an abrupt end, and dams no longer fulfilled their initial function.  Kent area residents and visitors can now enjoy recreational opportunities every day—walk, bike, bird watch or fish, and during the summer, canoe or kayak on our clean Cuyahoga River.  While credit goes to Kent City Council and the residents for support of the project to clean up our part of the river by modifying the historic dam in 2005 so the river could flow around it, which:

  • Increases the dissolved oxygen level in the water, providing support for more oxygen sensitive aquatic organisms
  • Increases species bio-diversity, stimulating the return of native organisms
  • Allows fish migration for improved feeding and spawning opportunities
  • Allows fish migration for improved feeding and spawning opportunities
  • Provides natural transport of sediments, critical to native species survival
  • Increases public awareness and appreciation of the river
  • Increases recreational opportunities (fishing, canoeing, kayaking)

In 1970, KEC also began a voluntary drop-recyleoff recycling program, so that individuals could help protect our natural resources within their own homes. In a Throw-Away Society such
as ours, the motto “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” became our constant theme for action.  This led to curbside pick up by Kent with a federal grant and KEC running the recycling center when that grant ran out.  Years later, curbside collection of recyclables was taken on by the City of Kent and then Portage County.  While recycling may seem very common now, KEC is still trying to extend awareness to those businesses and other establishments in Kent who do not yet recycle.

Other KEC action agendas have included advocating for the creation of a Portage County Park District to extend preservation of our natural areas beyond the city limits; promoting the passage of Clean Water and Clean Air legislation as well as a local regional transit authority. Our efforts or accomplishments can only be judged on the evidence that our local citizens are taking action to be faithful stewards of our local natural heritage.

While thinking globally and acting locally, KEC’s goal has been to involve local citizens in earth-friendly habit forming ways and to increase citizen awareness of the need to protect the natural heritage upon which our quality of life depends.  As we face today’s challenges, we need to continually renew our efforts and find new ways to make our world more sustainable.