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Down by the River

Changing Futures, Families and the Meaning of Adventure

Article by Stephanie Meinberg

Photography by Matthew J Capps Business Image Services

Originally published in Loveland Lifestyle

A day on the river? Most locals think Loveland Canoe & Kayak. The rental-retailer has been a staple for 45 years—the last 19 with Mark and Robin Bersani at the helm. A family-friendly outfitter helping expert paddlers and newbies alike enjoy some nature therapy on the Little Miami. They’ve even given their name a new look—to officially now become Loveland Paddlesports.  

That should be it, right? That’s the story—rent a kayak, enjoy the trip. Maybe come back and do it again. But that’s not even dipping a toe in the water. There are river cleanups, river conservancy, river councils. There’s getting urban teens outdoors, and teaching their young staff real life skills. Loveland Paddlesports is so much more than a place to float—it’s a place to thrive. 

“We’ve kind of fallen in love with being stewards of the river,” Mark shares. “But my wife and I really get a lot of satisfaction out of working with these amazing kids.” Amazing indeed. After their “season in the sun,” many former crew go on to be teachers, professors, doctors, Army Rangers, SEALS. “That’s our stewardship, too, this opportunity to teach these kids. They stay with us for a few years, then move on—and do great things.” 

No other place has this dedication—and environment—for encouraging kids to practice leadership, teamwork, mentorship, customer service, all in one job. Make no mistake—it’s hard work, physically demanding and busy when the weather is fine. In 2020, retail sales went through the roof, going from selling 80 kayaks a year to 250 (225 last year as well). And 16,000 paddlers? That’s a good summer—during Covid, it was 23,000. But at every turn, Mark and Robin’s young team rose to the occasion.   

“The kids fuel us, they really do—it’s what gives us energy, that so many of them are doing the amazing things we always expected they would. That stewardship piece—it’s just in our DNA.”  

“My mantra is ‘not all those who wander are lost,’” Mark smiles. “I’m happiest that way.” And wander they will—after this season, you’ll find Mark and Robin on the road to as many National Parks as they can hit in their new Airstream. And next year? Back on the river. “The work—it’s ongoing. And I love that.”

It’s All About Logistics

There’s more than a new name, awning and patio pavers—Loveland Paddlesports overhauled their entire booking system. “We used to have 85 people coming into the building at one time for a trip, filling out paperwork,” Mark remembers. “Now, we’re like, how did we do that? Covid taught us some lessons.” These days, everything is online—reservations, payments, waivers. Come trip-time, simply check in, grab a vest, get on a van and go—paddles and boats wait at the launch. “It’s so much more efficient, keeps the flow going.” Flowin’ like a river, right? 513.683.4611 | 174 Karl Brown Way