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Beauty of Mahoning celebrated at Riverfest

Staff photos / Bob Coupland Linda Kohut of Mercer. Pa., at left in canoe, and J.P. Tolson of Salem enjoy time on the Mahoning River Sunday at the annual Riverfest, which had people enjoying free canoeing and kayaking. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Mahoning River.

YOUNGSTOWN — The beauty of nature along the Mahoning River was showcased by members of the Friends of the Mahoning River at its annual Riverfest Sunday in downtown Youngstown.

Displays and exhibits showcasing the river and nature were set up on the grounds of the B&O Banquet Center. Gavin Switzer, chairman of the board for the friends group, said the event aims to draw attention to the river and the efforts by the Friends to revitalize it.

“Several times a year, we get in kayaks and do tire cleanups along the river. We want the river to be a resource of the community. We have this great asset in our backyard that allows for a lot of recreational opportunities such as kayaking and canoeing,” Switzer said.

He said vendors with native plants, children’s activities, a reptile show, and canoe and kayak rides were offered.

“This is a celebration of the river. We hope people learn more about the river and its purpose and what you can do on the river,” Switzer said.

He said the Friends are working on raising funds for river cleanups, including dredging of heavy metals to make it navigable for future generations.

DEDICATION IN GIRARD

Switzer said plans are to honor and remember Friends founding member Don Rex, who died last year, with a dedication 10 a.m. July 13 along the river in Girard. Plans are to name the boat launch in Rex’s name.

“It is an honor to name the boat launch after him. We will celebrate Don’s life around the river. He was a champion of the river,” Switzer said.

Felicia Armstrong of Canfield, a Friends member, said people enjoy going up and down the river in canoes and kayaks.

“You get a feel of what the river is like. You can’t believe you’re in Youngstown. It is very serene. For me, I can tell the Mahoning River has come a long way,” Armstrong said.

“I love being on the river. I think this area is beautiful to see,” said Linda Kohut of Mercer, Pa. and formerly of Youngstown.

Ethan Kay of Mineral Ridge brought his son, Ryker, 9, and daughter Rayna, 6, to the event.

“I kayak a lot and am trying to get them interested in it. We are always looking for good places on the river such as Mill Creek,” he said.

Ed Komara Jr., with Komara Outdoors, said the event allowed him to showcase different reptile species such as tortoises and snakes.

“I travel a lot for educational reptile programs to help promote awareness. People are always asking questions about the 120-pound alligator snapping turtle. I want people to get to know more about the different animals and their stories,” Komara said.

He said the turtles can live more than 100 years.

Have an interesting story? Contact Bob Coupland by email at bcoupland@tribtoday.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

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