From the pilot's position on his pontoon boat, Dan Wire loves to take people up and down any one of the three rivers that meet in downtown Ft. Wayne. The St. Mary's, St. Joseph and headwaters of the Maumee River converge in the center of the downtown area.
An urbanite through and through and teacher by trade, Wire is a self-taught expert on rivers, sought out for guidance on everything from Ft. Wayne's ongoing long-term sewer and stormwater upgrade project to the true picture of water quality on the rivers in the area.
He proudly wears the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District jacket. Now an associate supervisor, he was a supervisor for two years before becoming executive director of the Tri-State Watershed Alliance.
One of the goals of this newly formed group is to help both urban and rural people understand first each other, and then the need to improve water quality.
"Decades of media hype about how filthy and dirty the rivers are here, and how they are smelly and full of trash have conditioned city dwellers to shy away from the rivers," he says. "What the media says is simply not true. From the banks the river may look brown. But once you're out there on a boat, it's a whole different world. The water has a blue tint, because the rivers are in much better condition than most people think."
That's not by accident. Soil conservation efforts by farmers and others over the past three decades have helped. But Wire realizes that for other people to appreciate the rivers and change their minds, they must experience the river – by riding down the river. He takes anyone who wants to go on a pontoon ride up and down the various rivers.
Currently the rivers are seldom used for recreation. He's one of the few people who use the rivers for navigation. However, he hopes to change that soon. His new task is educating people about the value of the long-term Ft. Wayne riverfront revitalization effort, which was just announced.
Initial reaction drew negatives, but Wire believes that's primarily due to the decades of incorrect information fed to the public by the media. He helps them see the real story for themselves – while on the river.