May 27, 2020

Heroes of the Ohio River Valley

MARIETTA, OHIO – My definition of a hero is someone who defies convention, dares to challenge the powerful, does well by the public good, and deepens their own sense of purpose. I’ve crossed the paths of a number of these select individuals over the years, written about quite a few of them, and earned sufficient trust to call a handful of them my friends. Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior in the 1960s — one …

The Ohio River Again At Center of Seminal Industrial Transition

SOMERSET, KY — Ever since I reported and completed a project to suggest a new development strategy for Owensboro, KY. — and met and married one of the city’s great and beautiful civic leaders –I’ve been fascinated by the evolution of the Ohio River Valley. See a ModeShift archive here. Every economic era in American history opened along the river’s banks. Most of those that closed also weakened and died on a river that stretches …

Dream Big — Why Ohio River Valley Resurgence is Nationally and Globally Significant

OWENSBORO, KY — More than three years ago, while writing a study that suggested several new 21st century development ideas for this old river city, I discovered the mysteries of the Ohio River Valley. The region’s natural beauty is immediately striking. The recovering economies of cities and counties, once described as the Rust Belt, impress me. The unexpected governing approaches — cities passing new taxes as a development tool, and seeking consolidation with their surrounding …

Surrounded By Water, Ohio River Valley Experiences Economic Resurgence

OWENSBORO, KY. — Randy Simes, an urban planner in Cincinnati with a keen sense of observation, founded UrbanCincy.com in 2007 to report on the transitional neighborhoods, evolving culture, and reviving post-industrial economy of his native Queen City of nearly 300,000 residents. But it wasn’t until he posted before-and-after-pictures from Google Street View last May, comparing changes in well-known Cincinnati street corners from 2007 to 2013, that Simes’ neighbors and colleagues embraced his boosterish view that …

Henderson, Kentucky’s Riverwalk Along the Ohio River Shows Value of Public Investment

HENDERSON, KY — The 981-mile Ohio River Valley, which extends from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill. is full of surprises these days. Pittsburgh shed its sooty industrial coat of the 20th century to emerge as a center of engineering and biomedical innovation. Cincinnati, battered by race riots and disinvestment, is building a $1 billion riverfront neighborhood and a streetcar line. Louisville’s days as a meatpacking hub are long gone. Now it’s the growing capital of the …

Water, Energy and the Ohio River Valley’s New Course

ATHENS, OHIO – Few places in the United States better understand the economically essential and ecologically risky accord between energy and water than this southeast Ohio town. Athens, where Ohio University was founded in 1804 as a Northwest Territories frontier institution, was once surrounded by dozens of working underground coal mines. Thousands of miners spent much of the 19th and half of the 20th centuries digging long horizontal and vertical shafts that essentially hollowed out …

So Much Fracking Wastewater in the Ohio River Valley, Companies Want To Transport It By Barge

Last month, while nosing around the new Utica shale gas fields of eastern Ohio, I learned that the Obama administration was preparing to consider a proposal from the U.S. Coast Guard that would allow barge operators to transport wastewater from shale gas fracking operations on inland waterways. Earlier this month the Coast Guard delivered the proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Sometime later this year the agency is likely to make …

Rust Rubbed Off Ohio River Valley, Narrative of Economic Revival in New York Times

Luke Patterson, the 31-year-old pilot of the towboat Mike Weisend. Photo © Keith Schneider PADUCAH, KY. – On a mile-wide reach of the Ohio River, just upstream from where it converges with the Mississippi, Ray McKinney, the 54-year-old first mate aboard the Mike Weisend, a year-old towboat, pounds the slack out of steel cables that lash 15 barges together in a long tow headed upriver. The heavy pipe in his hands, and the tangle of …

Cleaner Water, Cooler Ohio River Cities

One of the interesting small towns I’ve visited in the United States in recent month is Marietta, Ohio, home of Marietta College, and basecamp for Jennifer Garrison, a lawyer helping working people negotiate lucrative mineral leases with big oil and natural gas production companies. I’m working on articles for The New York Times and Circle of Blue about potentially momentous oil and gas production joining improving trends in water quality that are pushing the Ohio …

Ohio River Valley’s Story of Recovery

Next week I return to the Ohio River Valley for The New York Times to 1) report on how oil and gas mineral leasing is making thousands of Ohio River Valley working families wealthy, and 2) how new urban development strategies, including a streetcar line and a $1 billion mixed-use riverfront project, are writing a 21st century narrative for Cincinnati’s economy and quality of life. Later this summer, I’ll report on similar trends emerging in …