My Hometown: Dan Wire, behind riverfront development all along

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Countless people are a part of the riverfront development. This My Hometown is about one of those people who has been somewhat behind the scenes all along.

Saturday we told you about a man who has spent his life dedicated to our rivers. Now, Dan Wire is seeing dreams come true on our riverbank. He remembered something Mayor Tom Henry said 10 years ago like it was yesterday. “I mean, I was smiling so hard I thought my chin was going to fall off.”

It happened at a public meeting after Henry was just elected. “The president of the group on a very closing statement said ‘Mayor Henry, when you’re done with your term as mayor what would you like your legacy to be?’ And Mayor Henry said at that time ‘I want to be the mayor who brings Fort Wayne back to the rivers.’”

It was music to Dan’s ears. “I vaguely remember that. Obviously Dan remembered it almost verbatim,” Henry said.

It’s almost an understatement to say he’s a river enthusiast. Dan tried for years to get the mayor on his boat. “I was after the mayor for almost 8 years, I mean I think it was probably 6 years, and he finally said ‘okay, Dan I’ll take a pontoon ride with you.’”

Henry and his wife joined Dan and his for an expected 45 minute ride. When it came that time to head back, the mayor wasn’t ready. “I said well we’re about that time and he said I’ve got a little time let’s go there and I was kind of nervous saying it’s about that time should we head back and he said no let’s go back around that bin. Well that 45 minute boat ride ended up turning into well over 3 hours by the time we got back.”

The ideas took off from there. “10 years ago when I became mayor it was a whole different way of life so to speak and Dan pushed me exceptionally hard to make more of our rivers and obviously that’s what we’re doing,” Henry said.

We asked Dan if that ride is what got ideas for the riverfront project really turning. He said: “I think so, yeah. I’m not going to take any credit for where we are today. I put people on the river but it’s those people who have the connections and the ability to pull it together. That’s what’s made this happen.”

The latest project is the canal boat. We got an exclusive first look inside.

The 1840’s replica can be set up to take 40 people for educational tour, reconfigured for a cocktail party or dinner trips can handle 30 people or so. “We want this boat to be used how the community wants to use it.”

Dan is also a part of putting together a work barge that will help maintain the river; that will happen in July. Through the Tri Sate Watershed Alliance, which he started, and years of local knowledge, he educates people on taking care of our rivers. Even more he was a part of flood prevention and the big tunnel project.

The mayor said he’s been aggressive in his passion, Dan thinks he’s been patient. After all, he’s waited for this his whole life.

“It basically is, the shade you’re enjoying underneath this tree was the vision that someone had 50 years ago to plant a tree. So, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to plant the seeds to this project that’s others down the road can enjoy. That will make me happy.”

The canal boat was just put in the water Saturday. It is just being used for training now but will be open to the public June 1st.