MORPC Matters: Water-recreation resources must be protected, promoted
By EDWINA TEYE
Published in This Week Community News
We are fortunate in central Ohio to be able to enjoy the immense benefits of plentiful local water resources.
I particularly enjoy visiting Alum Creek in Delaware County, where I can find a place to escape a busy life for a while.
The calming and soothing effect of water cannot be overlooked and leads to better physical and mental health.
Before moving to central Ohio as a West African transplant, I knew my way around and could enjoy the outdoors at any time. Finding information about open and public beaches here in central Ohio was far more difficult until I started to work at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
In my role leading water-resources projects at MORPC, I am privileged to understand the region’s physical landscape and the opportunities for outdoor recreation. But then I stop to think about the thousands of people who, like me, are relatively new to the region and wonder where they can access information about the outdoors.
MORPC and our partners provide a variety of resources for those who are interested in learning more about how to safely access our water resources and trails for recreation or how to adopt conservation practices for clean water. As a mother of a child who loves everything water, I am constantly on the lookout for clean beaches and outdoor water-recreation spots.
MORPC’s Central Ohio Blueways initiative, in partnership with local communities, parks districts and grassroots organizations, provides residents and visitors with information about where they can safely and legally access the water for paddle sports. After all, there are more than 100 miles of water to paddle along Alum Creek, Big Darby Creek, Big Walnut Creek, the Olentangy River and the Scioto River in Delaware, Franklin and Pickaway counties.
Closely related to access to information is the lack of diversity in nature-based outdoor recreational activities largely related to historical racial discrimination and lack of access to recreational spaces. Together with its partners, MORPC as an agency is working to remove these barriers through one program and initiative at a time.
After a tumultuous year, it has become increasingly important for the public – both young and old – to be actively involved in the conservation and management of our water resources. While actively taking part in this, feelings of ownership are cultivated while also enjoying the immense benefits of these precious resources.
MORPC has organized and celebrated Riverfest over the past several years to improve stewardship of natural resources and to create a connection with local waterways through paddling opportunities.
The challenges of the pandemic led to the creation of Virtual Riverfest, and this year we celebrated in partnership with the African American Male Wellness Agency with the theme of “Wellness, and Water.” The goal of the Virtual Riverfest was to promote diversity in water recreation by providing resources and connecting the dots on access, water conservation and health.
Our efforts led to the creation of a video highlighting the benefits of our waterways for physical and mental health and was accompanied by a five-day social-media campaign on how we can protect our water resources.
At MORPC, we believe participation and engagement are critical pieces to the sustainability agenda in the region, and thus we seek to make available and accessible information necessary for creating an equitable and inclusive region. To learn more about our work, go to morpc.org.
Dr. Edwina Teye is an associate Planner at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. MORPC’s purpose is to bring communities of all sizes and interests together to collaborate on best practices and plan for the future of the region.