Route 315 designation will return with resident group's support
Powell resident Len Ford has a keen interest in the history of the area.
For the past 17 years, he has lived with his wife just off state Route 315 in a historical home built in 1810.
So when Ford and several other residents living along the roadway learned that its status as an Ohio scenic byway had lapsed, they took action.
Ford and other members of a grass-roots group called Citizens for a Safe and Scenic Olentangy River Road Byway lobbied township officials to restore the designation.
Thanks to their efforts, Liberty Township's most-scenic route once again will be officially recognized as such.
At its March 25 meeting, the township's board of trustees voted 3-0 to reinstate participation in the Ohio Department of Transportation's scenic byway program.
In December, trustees voted to end the township's association with the program, which is used to raise awareness about routes with beautiful scenery, as well as historical and natural significance.
Specifically, township staff asked to discontinue participation for relief from the lengthy application process necessary to maintain state Route 315's scenic byway status along the Olentangy River.
Township Administrator Dave Anderson said the application process has gotten lengthier and more involved. Limited resources and staff time could be put to better use, he said.
"Quite simply, in the 10 years it's been there, nobody has ever done anything with it," Anderson said. "Nobody has talked about it, and it's been essentially a meaningless, feel-good sign."
But Ford said the designation is an important indication of roadway's local significance. He said he hopes the status could play a role in deterring development that could threaten the preservation of historical sites along the road.
His group even offered to complete the annual paperwork to ensure the designation remains.
"I think we're heading in a new direction," Ford said. "Now we can start to talk about how to focus on the architectural and historical elements along the byway that would be of interest to people."
Trustees Melanie Leneghan and Mary Carducci voted to cease participation in December, but board Chairman Curt Sybert voted against the measure. He argued the designation is a point of pride for residents.
Anderson said continued participation in the scenic byway program will be contingent on help from volunteers for the foreseeable future.
Leneghan and Carducci added they weren't aware such community support for the program existed.
"When I voted 'no,' I had no idea that so many people were interested in this, or that it was important to them," Leneghan said.
Sybert said it's a worthwhile move for the township.
"There's a number of us who have been here for 10, 20, 30, 40 years or more who identify with the scenic byway," he said.
"There's no better drive on a Sunday than driving up 315 through Liberty Township," he added.
Overall, 27 roadways in Ohio are designated scenic byways by ODOT, which touts them as preferred traveling routes and attractions for day trips.