Oak Harbor is connecting the dots toward connectivity

Mar 5, 2024 | Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

Chris Fruziek and his two-year-old daughter, Lark Fruziek, take a walk by the Portage River in downtown Oak Harbor. The village plans to build a river walk that will create a natural connection between the water and downtown businesses. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)


If Oak Harbor had to pick its word of the year, it would probably be connection. The quaint town has long been shaped by its desire to bring people together, whether inside the village’s Log Cabin, on the streets during the annual Apple Festival, or simply around local kitchen tables.

This year, the village is taking its passion for connectivity to another level as it implements the Safe Routes to School Plan, an ODOT program that offers funding to help establish safe paths for children who walk to school.

“The objective is to get kids to school safely. We want to reduce barriers and help parents feel safe about having their kids walk to school,” said Oak Harbor Mayor Quinton Babcock.

The village was approved for $30,000 competitive grant to implement the Safe Routes to School plan. At the same time, the village is wrapping up the Oak Harbor Comprehensive Community Plan that utilized data gathered from a community survey which asked local residents to voice preferences on needed community services or amenities. Two of the top four responses were related to connectivity, including requests for a river walk and trails and a bike path.

Mayor Quinton Babcock is leading the village through a comprehensive plan that will bring better connectivity throughout the village and create safer routes to school for area children. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Apparently, Oak Harbor residents want to connect even more.

“We had a lot of interest in pedestrian connectivity improvement,” Babcock said.

The approval of the Safe Routes to School grant is perfectly timed to the comprehensive plan. The grant will help fund some of the overlapping objectives of the comprehensive plan, such as improved sidewalks. Babcock said one identified point of concern is creating safer connection between the school and students who live east of Veterans Memorial Park. Although it’s a short walk to school through the park, it’s not a safe route because the sidewalk is narrow and unlighted.

“Adults have told me they don’t want to jog on that sidewalk at night because it’s unlighted,” Babcock said. “It’s not safe for kids to walk on when it’s dark.”

Once ODOT approves the city’s Safe Routes to School improvement objectives, the village will be eligible to apply for further grant money to implement the improvements.

“Once we have that rubber stamp, we can apply for other funds,” Babcock said.

Eighth graders Lillian Weakley and Scarlett Augsburger walk to sports practice after school on Feb. 26. An ODOT grant will make walking to school safer in Oak Harbor. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

The Safe Routes to School improvements have the potential to impact the entire community.

“Enhancing connectivity is better for everyone,” Babcock said. “For example, if we widen the sidewalk at Veterans Park, it will be better for wheelchairs and strollers, and with added lighting, people can work out when they want.”

At the same time, the village plans to begin foundational work on riverfront development this year. An architect was hired to create a plan that will seamlessly tie the Portage River to downtown Oak Harbor, creating connectivity to natural resources and to local businesses.

“We prioritized connectivity for the architect,” Babcock said. “We want it to be very natural for people to grab a coffee downtown and walk to the river.”

In the big picture, the village’s efforts fit into the connectivity, active transportation or health goals of many county organizations, including the Ottawa County Health Department, the Park District of Ottawa County, Ottawa County Improvement Corporation and Shores & Islands Ohio.

“It’s an interesting tie-in to all these organizations,” Babcock said. “We’re creating conditions where local residents can be healthier and better connected.”

Related Post 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ohler & Holzhauer Ad Oct 2019 - Dec 2019


April 2024

Share This