Commissioners to hear scenic byway proposal

MANSFIELD — The president of the Greentown Preservation Association said a state scenic byway designation for Ohio 39 between Mansfield and Loudonville would promote the area by drawing attention to its history.

Bill Jones told county commissioners Tuesday he is in the process of talking with local officials to see if there is enough interest in forming a byway committee to apply for the designation.

Jones presented a map showing a variety of historical sites tied to Johnny Appleseed and historical events leading up to the War of 1812 — including the former Delaware Indian village at Greentown and the Copus massacre that followed the burning of the town. He said having the byway extend to Mansfield, site of the blockhouse and the square, would allow people to experience events that also include sites in Lucas.

“Some byways, while they have scenic qualities, they don’t have the attributes that we have here,” Jones said. “A scenic byway can help preserve our intrinsic assets.”

Jones noted the byway could lead visitors to other local assets, such as Malabar Farm, the Mohican Watershed Conservancy District lakes, Kingwood Center and the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. He also suggested the byway could link to others in the region, including the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30), the Amish Country Byway in Holmes and Wayne counties and the Gateway to Amish Country Byway in Knox County.

“Development of a byway does not require people to stay, but is a way of generating interest in the area,” he said. “What we’re saying is if you follow the roads and trails you will see things.”

Jones told commissioners he has contacted Lee Tasseff at the Mansfield-Richland County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, officials at the Mohican-Loudonville CVB and a number of restaurants and local bed-and-breakfast operations. He has received a favorable response so far.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation website, a local committee must be formed to determine if a proposed byway is eligible for designation and to develop a corridor management plan if the area is eligible. Criteria for byway designation include whether a corridor tells a story that relates to its intrinsic resource, exhibits significant, exceptional and distinctive features of the region and has the support of local development organizations and cities and villages.

Jones also outlined plans for development of Greentown and a “Greentown Gathering” that will be Sept. 15 on the site, which is just northwest of the intersection of Ohio 39 and Ohio 511. The gathering will be the first of what is expected to be a number of locally organized events to observe Richland County’s bicentennial.

The observance will commemorate the events of September on the Black Fork during the War of 1812 that include the burning of Greentown and the removal of its Indian residents, the attack on the Ruffner and Zimmer families and the battle at the Copus homestead. Activities will include a living history encampment, displays, vendors, food, children’s crafts, flintlock shooting demonstrations and participation by descendants of the three historic families and representatives of the Delaware tribe.

Jones said officials hope to have erected on the site a small log cabin that was moved from Butler and is representative of the hand-hewn log structures in Greentown. He said future reconstruction will involve minimal excavation to protect possible burial sites.