The American Queen Steamboat Co. is doing a community outreach program this month with eight cities along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers — including Owensboro.

The idea, the company says, is to “study environmental issues that negatively affect the Ohio River and explore strategies that can address them.”

The company is working on the project with Rotary Clubs in Owensboro, Louisville, Paducah, Brandenburg and Henderson in Kentucky, as well as clubs in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Alton, Illinois.

Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Mike Weafer, publisher of the Messenger-Inquirer, are chairing the local committee for the Owensboro Rotary Club Save the River Day.

Calitri said activities include planting an “October Glory” maple in English Park and planting flowerbeds with Kentucky wildflowers in Chautauqua Park to prevent erosion.

The American Duchess, a 432-passenger steamboat, is scheduled to arrive at English Park at noon on Sept. 29.

Mayor Tom Watson, Judge-Executive Al Mattingly and Weafer are scheduled to speak at the welcoming ceremony.

After the tree planting, about 20 passengers are slated to ride the city’s trolley to Chautauqua Park for the flower planting.

Planting wildflowers with deep roots helps the soil absorb more rain and helps keep sewage out of the river, the announcement said.

Owensboro has a combined sewer system. And heavy rains, like the city experienced in the past week, can make sewage overflow into the river.

Calitiri said the agreement with American Queen is for several years.

Rotary will start working on a plan for next year soon, he said.

Calitri said passengers booking the cruise are aware of its purpose. And he said the steamboat company is seeing strong bookings so far.

“It’s critical for them to see that we’re doing good work here,” he said.

The CVB is hopeful that more American Queen cruises will stop in Owensboro in the future, Calitri said.

Passengers will also tour downtown while the boat is docked here on Sept. 29, he said.

A bluegrass band will be playing when they arrive and when they leave to remind them of Owensboro’s claim as “The Bluegrass Music Capital of the World,” Calitri said.

He said the event “shows the importance of Rotary to its communities.”

The local club has 55 members.

Keith Lwarence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com.

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