Olentangy Valley: 5 top stories of 2020

Jim Fischer
ThisWeek

A recurring theme of 2020 during the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was challenge.

Here are five of the top stories in the Olentangy Valley during a year of meeting those challenges and learning to cope, persevere and, sometimes, move forward: 

5 Top Stories of 2020

BALLOT SUCCESS, EVENTUALLY: A delayed spring election kept the Olentangy school district waiting to learn its financial future. The district placed a three-part issue on the March ballot -- a bond issue to fund the construction of two new elementary schools and middle school, a permanent-improvements levy and an operating levy. The March election was delayed until April 28 because of the pandemic. The issue ultimately was approved with almost 58% of the vote. Despite the delay, the district was able to break ground on its 16th elementary school in Berlin Township later in the year. The building remains on track to open for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS: Guidelines, restrictions and shutdowns aimed at keeping people safe during the pandemic created an unprecedented environment for businesses -- small and local businesses in particular.

As Powell residents rallied around locally owned eateries, the city expanded Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) hours. As the season changed, restaurants found creative ways to battle the lower temperatures.

At the same time, governments worked to funnel needed assistance to local businesses through new loan and grant programs.

DOCUMENTING DISAPPOINTMENT: Yearbook staffs at Olentangy’s four high schools wrestled with practical and philosophical issues in preparing records of the unprecedented school year. Advisers lauded their charges for their dedication to quality and documenting the challenges faced by students in a year with no spring sports, prom or traditional graduation ceremonies.

“It’s hard, but a yearbook is a document that students are going to look back at and remember. We felt we had to try and capture what this time was like,” Berlin yearbook editor Madison Vondersaar said.

NO FEST BUT PROTEST: A summer of discontent, perhaps, in Powell was marked by the cancellation of the annual Powell Fest and a gathering of hundreds in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Powell Fest was replaced, after a fashion, with the city’s first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area event after City Council approved legislation the previous fall to permit a DORA district in the downtown.

A Black Lives Matter protest was organized by several local residents and featured a slate of speakers, a moment of silence and a march around the city center.

PARKS PROGRESS: The pandemic and attendant health- and safety-related restrictions found area residents craving the outdoors, flocking to parks in record numbers. Good news came in the form of progress on the newly named McCammon Creek Park, a Preservation Parks of Delaware County space in Orange Township on which work is ongoing. In Powell, the long-delayed Seldom Seen Park opened in October. The park features athletics fields, a natural playground, a nature preserve and multiuse paths.

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