Riverbank Learning Garden

About the Riverbank Learning Garden

riverbankA Lesson from our Past and Hope for the Future

Few remnants remain of the lush forests that used to line the Ohio’s banks. Today a grand eastern cottonwood tree towers over the waterfront behind the Newport Aquarium serving as a reminder of what used to be. The tree, which is likely over a hundred years old, is the oldest and largest tree in the Greater Cincinnati stretch of the Ohio River. When encroachment from development threatened the tree’s survival, a team of Aquarium cast members decided to intervene. Working with the WAVE Foundation and the City of Newport, they devised a plan that would not only preserve the cottonwood, but would create a gathering place for the community as well as an outdoor classroom for the WAVE’s education programs. The Riverbank Learning Garden was born.

Thanks to a generous gift from the Dornette Foundation, on May 23, 2006, the WAVE Foundation dedicated the Riverbank Learning Garden to the citizens of Newport and the surrounding Greater Cincinnati area. Carefully constructed to preserve the tree, the garden is designed with eco-friendly materials including porous bricks that allow water and oxygen to reach the tree’s roots. Seating stones surrounding the native plantings are perfect for passersby to enjoy the shade of the tree’s canopy while reading, socializing, or simply enjoying the scenery.  By starting with experiences in their own “backyard,” WAVE hopes to inspire the community to observe, appreciate and preserve the world around them.

Why is this tree a treasure?

A professional assessment of the tree determined its age to be approximately 80 to 100 years old. Historic photos show the tree had a significant canopy in 1938, which tells us it weathered the devastation of the 1937 flood when the river crested 24 feet into its branches. The tree has survived many natural disasters and urban development including the construction of Newport on the Levee and new pavement for festival space. Thankfully, Newport officials would not allow this historic, natural landmark to be destroyed.

Despite the unfavorable man-made challenges, the tree continues to thrive, helping to stabilize the eroding riverbank, provide enrichment for soil and create shade and habitat for native plants and animals.


Tribute Bricks: Riverbank Legacy Campaign

Make your marktribute-bricks
The WAVE Foundation offers a unique opportunity for members of the community to purchase commemorative engraved bricks in the WAVE Foundation Riverbank Learning Garden.  Commemorative bricks are available for dedication with a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more to the WAVE Foundation.

Dedicating a commemorative brick makes for an unforgettable birthday, anniversary or holiday gift while providing vital funds to the WAVE Foundation’s efforts of education, conservation and volunteer opportunities.

Dedicate a commemorative brick in celebration of family, friends or your organization.

Your generous gift allows us to continue to excite, engage and educate our communities about the importance of protecting aquatic life and our environment.

Click here to order a commemorative brick online, or download the order form to order by mail.  If you have any questions or to order by phone, contact the WAVE Foundation at 859.815.1418.