The Portsmouth/Scioto County League of Women Voters held their October meeting at the historic stone shelter house at Mound Park in Portsmouth on October 20, to hear about how two local groups have been working to promote healthy activities for youth and adults. Featured speakers were Allison Kalb, president and co-founder of Portsmouth Residents Organized for Urban Development (PROUD, Inc.), and Wendi Waugh, Vice President and Media Chair of Portsmouth CONNEX.
“When my husband Jim (former Mayor James Kalb and current Fourth Ward Councilman) and I said we wanted to save this shelter house, everyone thought we were crazy,” said Mrs. Kalb, “but when we brought our children to play here at Mound Park, it became evident pretty quickly that there were no facilities. We had this beautiful shelter house with bathrooms, but no one could use them unless it was restored.” The two stone buildings at Mound Park were built by the WPA in the late thirties. When the Kalbs got involved, the buildings hadn’t been used in many years and the city was planning to have them demolished.
“Neither of us wanted to speak at City Council,” Mrs. Kalb continued, “as we were both nervous. This was before Jim got involved in politics. But we felt strongly about it and were willing to try.” The Kalbs got permission for the project and got an estimate of $80,000.00 to restore the shelter house. “We did it on a smidgeon of that,” Mrs. Kalb continued, “because we were able to bring over 100 people and businesses together who donated most of the materials and labor. We also received several grants. And we won the Hometown Pride Award from Midwest Living Magazine. They told us it was unusual to be awarded for a first-year project.”
Once the building was ready, with added snack bar, picnic tables, and working fireplace, the Kalbs created the PROUD Kids Club. “We had youth programs here all day in the summers; crafts, line dancing, etiquette classes, and field trips,” Mrs. Kalb said, “and everyone had a great time. The whole community got involved and we had lots of adult volunteers. Our town had lost the YMCA and Dreamland Pool had closed. We can’t just say, ‘Oh, we had it so good when we were kids.’ It’s up to us to make sure kids have safe and fun things to do now. Too many kids cause trouble just because they’re bored.” Currently, the shelter house is available for church and community groups free of charge, and for private parties for a flat fee, from mid-April through October. Councilman and Mrs. James Kalb can be reached through the local phone directory for more information.
Wendi Waugh, of Portsmouth, spoke about the plans Portsmouth CONNEX is making for biking and activity trails throughout the city. “Our group picked up where Shawnee Recreational Trails left off,” explained Waugh, “as plans were being made years ago for a
biking trail from Portsmouth to Earl Thomas Conley Park. That fell through due to one property owner being unwilling to give a right-of-way. In the meantime, we are looking at other ways to create activity routes.” These marked lanes won’t only be for cyclists. “Whether you bike, walk, run, or skateboard,” said Waugh, “you can be safer with a designated lane or route. Traffic will be made aware that people are active in that area and are more apt to watch out for them.”
Activity routes have also been shown to encourage economic and tourism development. “When you direct people toward a certain area,” said Waugh, “it benefits restaurants, shops, and other businesses along that route.” CONNEX is planning to purchase and install bike racks at restaurants and other stops along the routes. “This will encourage people to stop, eat, shop, and visit places along the way. We’ve created an Activity and Tourism Map that people can pick up at the Scioto County Welcome Center so they can find their way to the various sites. CONNEX members have been organizing and guiding group rides during the summer, which have been very successful and lots of fun.”
For more information about Portsmouth CONNEX, and to join, find them on Facebook or at www.connexmoves.org
Portsmouth/Scioto County League of Women Voters can also be found on Facebook.