Efforts to create bike routes throughout the Portsmouth area began approximately a year ago when several local biking enthusiasts felt that timing was appropriate to reinitiate some work began by Shawnee Recreational Trail (SRT). SRT, a non-profit organization formed locally in 2006, had a vision to build a bicycle route from the West Side to Portsmouth. Although the project gained traction, the group fell short in obtaining a grant. But the group did successfully secure approximately $45,000 for the earlier project that is not committed to the current project. Linda Liner was former president of SRT and has since moved away from the area but original SRT Board members Jeff Smith, Esther Downey, and Barb Bradbury are still active in the project. In fact Barb was recently appointed board president and the board was expanded to include other key members. One of those members is Gina Chabot from TSHD architects. Gina has developed a long term vision to create routes not only throughout the city of Portsmouth but the whole surrounding area. Other additional board members include Steve Rodeheffer, Ellen Berry, Ben Davis, and Wendi Waugh. Wendi has introduced the concept that these routes should be more than bike routes and should be thought of as activity routes and social gathering points throughout our community. Gina’s plan really connected with these goals because the sketched vision connects many of the area’s parks and key businesses and focal points of our area.
Over the last year SRT has gained a lot of ground. They have worked collaboratively with the Scioto County Health Coalition, Portsmouth City Council, outlying county groups, and many others to align goals. They have also officially named the project, Connex. Connex has been officially registered with the help of Steve Rodeheffer. Different sections of the activity routes can be termed to refer to a specific area such as Portsmouth Connex or West Side Connex. Connex has developed a logo with the assistance of graphic designer Amanda Eaton and the Shawnee State University Office of Communications. These key initial steps have assisted the group in both communicating the vision and creating a brand that is recognizable and becoming familiar.
As mentioned above, the routes are designed to connect key area destinations. One of the first projects that the community is likely to see progress is designated lanes (bicycle/running/walking) connecting Shawnee State University and the Portsmouth Front Street Mural District. Existing groups such as the Portsmouth Murals Inc. and Main Street Portsmouth have been involved. The Connex group is also focused on shared lanes leading to area parks, key entertainment, historical sites, hospitals, shopping, and beyond. Another community group is specifically working on a vision to revitalize Mound Park with new and existing interested groups and yet another sub-group is working on some West Side routes.
The benefits of the project are tremendous and include…..Improve the economic viability of Portsmouth and surrounding areas; Promote tourism and access along the riverfront and Front Street mural district; Encourage support for businesses “along the route” by providing cyclists, runners, walkers safe and marked routes to businesses, schools and the University, parks, hospitals, and other key destinations; Provide evidence of Portsmouth’s transformation into a bicycle-friendly, health conscious and forward-thinking community; and Reinvigorate existing parks with amenities thereby encouraging use of the parks as a destination stops along the route and additionally to promote the routes.
In an effort to engage our community in these objectives, please get involved in the project. The group meets regularly and invites interested parties to get involved. The next meeting will be held at the SOMC Cancer Center at 5:30pm on Wednesday April 2nd. The group has also developed a Facebook site that they are encouraging friends to join. The site is called Portsmouth Connex. Visit the site, review the proposed maps and sketches, and add input to continue to keep the project aligned. Stay tuned for updates on progress, fundraisers, or other opportunities to get involved.