Interactive Digital Guide To Ohio River Wins National Achievement Award

An interactive digital guide to the Ohio River that helps recreational boaters be more aware of commercial boat traffic has earned a national award.

The Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) received a 2021 Achievement Award for the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC). The Major Metro Achievement Award was presented at NARC’s 55th annual conference and exhibition held virtually in June.

OKI developed the online guide to aid boaters, paddlers, anglers, cyclists and drivers in exploring both the Ohio River and its neighboring communities. It is accessible by going to and clicking on “Digital Guide” in the top right corner.

The guide uses Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder data to mark towing vessels.

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Guide users can check boxes to decide what is important for the map to show them, including: river access points, wind direction and speed, a towing vessel’s location using AIS data, river milepoints, ports, marinas, lodging, restaurants, historical sites and other attractions. They can choose points that are land-based, for bicyclists, or water-based, for kayakers as well as other recreational boaters. The guide is accessible on any device with internet or Wi-Fi capability, unlike an app.

So far, the guide covers the Ohio River from Portsmouth, Ohio, (Mile 350) to West Point, Ky. (Mile 640), said David Rutter, senior environmental planner for OKI. AIS data is included for portions of the river between Huntington, W.Va., and Louisville, Ky.

“We have a vision of connecting up to Pittsburgh, and I would certainly like to see it go all the way to Cairo,” Rutter said when announcing the guide last summer after two years of development. He would also like to explore inclusion of Ohio River tributaries, he said. 

CEO Mark Policinski said OKI is honored to receive the achievement award.

“The digital guide is the first of its kind in the nation that promotes river safety, along with being an economic driver that enhances tourism along the Ohio River corridor from Portsmouth, Ohio, to West Point, Ky., just downstream from Louisville,” Policinski said. 

Brewster Rhodes, Ohio chair of the Ohio River Recreational Trail, praised the guide.

“The digital guide identifies the location, direction and speed of commercial vessels, such as barges in real-time, therefore enhancing safety on the river,” he said. “As a long-time outdoor enthusiast, I commend OKI in leading the region in developing this pioneering guide to help improve public access and infrastructure, and celebrate the unique beauty and culture of the Ohio River.”

The NARC Achievement Award is designed to recognize excellence in programs and services of regional councils and metropolitan planning organizations, thereby contributing to better and more efficient government.

“I am so pleased and so proud as president of NARC to be able to celebrate these achievements in regional cooperation, excellence and leadership,” said NARC President Bob Cannon, supervisor of Clinton Township, Mich., and former chair of Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, at the awards ceremony.