Multi-use trail would be a plus for community

More than 150 people took time out of their lives this week to meet and talk about the possibilities of connecting Devola to Marietta with a multi-use path. Thank you to each and everyone who attended the meeting in the Devola Volunteer Fire Department.

The goal was to have a conversation with anyone who was interested in participating. It is important that community decisions be made by the members of the community in an inclusive process. Everyone has a right to express their opinion.

It reflects on the wonderful Devola and Muskingum Township community that so many people could come together and have a respectful conversation with so many points of view being expressed.

The Devola Recreational Trail Ad Hoc Committee was formed with about 15 people agreeing that they would continue the conversation about exploring the possibilities of developing plans for a multi-use for the community’s benefit and improved quality of life.

The group of community volunteers plan to gather information and share it with the larger community.

They plan to examine the value of recreational trails on real estate values, attractiveness to retirees, quality of life impacts and building improved community spirit. Introducing bicycle and trail safety issues and ways to improve peoples’ health also will be examined.

Plans are to conduct community surveys to determine interests in potential users of recreational and transportation trails.

Committee members plan to meet with Washington County Engineer Roger Wright, who attended Monday’s meeting and provided possible options for trails on large aerial maps. Future talks with the engineer will focus on trail utility, beauty and cost.

Volunteers plan working to identify possible funding sources, such as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Federal Alternative Transportation Administration, Clean Ohio Funds and other sources regularly used to develop trails across the state. Additional focus will be on local resources for trail building, local donations and trail maintenance. Committee members will reach out to experienced trail builders for information and ideas.

Already area business family and landowners George and Nancy Broughton offered up to 2 miles of right-of-way off of Ohio 60 to expand the extensive trail system already existing at the Broughton Wildlife Refuge. Engineer Wright provided three large scale aerial maps showing the Devola’s Dam to Marietta River Trail so Devola and Muskingum Township residents may examine the array of possible trail options that exist. Several were marked by Wright and his staff draftsman Tim January to spark the community’s conversation.

Committee members also will have a vast amount of information available from other trail building efforts across the United States. The League of American Bicyclists has established a simple five-step plan that has been used successfully for years. Issues every community tackle include: 1. Encouragement – incentives, promotions and opportunities that inspire and enable people to walk, run and bicycle. 2. Education – programs that ensure the safety, comfort and convenience of cyclists and their fellow road users. 3. Engineering – the physical infrastructure and hardware in place to support cycling, walking and running. 4. Enforcement – equitable laws and programs that ensure motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are held accountable for their actions. 5. Evaluation – processes that demonstrate a commitment to measuring results and planning for the future.

The reality of multi-use trails across the United States is: they improve quality of life and property values, they bring people together, they decrease crime opportunities because of the social networks developed, they become economic engines drawing money to existing and new businesses and they provide access into natural areas for people who otherwise may not have it because of disabilities.

Bicycling activity in the Mid-Ohio Valley in the past 35 years has resulted in thousands of people visiting the area for races and tours and then returning to explore the community. Tens of thousands of dollars have been donated by the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club from the 32-year operation of the Marietta River Rendezvous Bicycle Tour the first weekend of each June. Seventy miles of the North Bend Trail stretches from Parkersburg to Clarksburg, 19 miles stretches from Athens to Nelsonville. Nearly 3.5 miles has been completed in Marietta used by nearly 10,000 people per month.

Plans in both Ohio and West Virginia involve linking more than 350 miles of trails in neighboring counties. Those who walk, run or bicycle on multi-use trails understand the values to health, lifestyle and economy. I hope as the conversation continues in Devola and Muskingum Township about multi-use trails, that anyone interested become informed and part of the community-building process.

Roger G. Kalter, of Marietta, is a lifelong walker and cyclist and a member of the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club. He developed the first Athens County shared use trail in 1971, and founded the Tour of the Hocking River in 1971 and the Holiday Lights Bicycle Tour.