Why the Ross County parks levy is important to our future

In case it was lost in the shuffle of life, the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce board of directors recently endorsed the Ross County Parks District levy on the ballot in November. It was a no-brainer.

But let’s go beyond the press release for a minute.

Among the great things happening in our community in the past five years – a growing and thriving downtown, new construction by some of our biggest employers, and more – a renewed interest in protecting our natural beauty and resources is a big part of the story when it comes to the new look and feel of Chillicothe.

Our biggest assets include five of the most beautiful state parks and a national historic park that will soon welcome visitors from all over the globe, but equally important is the network of parks, bike trails, nature preserves, and a quality soccer complex that the Ross County Parks District owns and maintains across the county.

Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with two different people who recently had a chance to hire out-of-town professionals for their businesses. Each of them were questioned about what the area has to offer in terms of outdoor activity. In each case, the hiring professional was able to talk up the Paint Creek Recreational Trail, which we know as “the bike path” and in Chillicothe “the floodwall bike path.” There were also additional efforts to talk about hiking opportunities, and Buzzard’s Roost came up.

In both instances, the interviewees went out and tried the places discussed and came away greatly impressed by those two areas of Ross County. And, they haven’t even seen the state parks yet!

More and more, people are getting up and out to get exercise. Studies show the more access people have to outdoor physical activities, the more likely it is that they will exercise three or more days a week. It’s a great way to recruit and retain people to live and work here. I believe that it’s one of our strategies to help combat the brain drain that hits areas like ours and help to continue the great momentum toward a thriving community. Do people come to Chillicothe just because we have a great park system? No, probably no more than we have a great downtown, a new dog park, or any other amenity. But those things are factors in that final decision and, without them, it’s easier to say no to the places that don’t offer such amenities.

But there’s one final thing that I think is important: Younger generations are watching. They want to see their community, their hometown, make a commitment to the natural resources we all enjoy. It’s a source of pride for them. Protecting the parks is as much a protection of the future and a source of strength for them.

As a transplant, and a flat-lander at that, I was wowed by the amazing scenery when I arrived 22 years ago. That awe grew into a desire to know about the rich natural beauty and I’m still discovering things I didn’t know about. A “YES” vote by Nov. 5 will help our assets keep their strength well into the future.