Bethany J. Royer
PIQUA — A new year will soon be upon us which means taking time to see off a gargantuan 2013 in terms of city improvements and accomplishments.
While next to impossible to touch base on everything that happened over the last 12 months here are a few of the highlights beginning with infrastructure. And who can overlook the main artery into the city getting another facelift —the U.S. Route 36 (E. Ash St.) Beautification Project. Phase I began in mid-September and saw to the installation of decorative street lights, trees and plantings, and upgrades to the pedestrian crossing at the Scott Drive/E. Ash intersection. Phase II will see a separate pedestrian/bike facility (multi-use path) on the south side of the East Ash Street bridge moving east and re-development to the banks along the corridor. This is among other potential features dependent on funds and as passed by commission, of course.
Meanwhile, portions of County Road 25-A also saw to an upgrade —reconstruction from Country Club Lane to Looney Road— making for further improvements, if some hair-raising commutes for a time, to the city.
Grants made up a huge portion of the year, too, allowing for studies on everything from brownfields to the riverfront district for redevelopment potentials. While a pilot study was performed at the wastewater treatment plant and work continues on the design for the new water treatment plant.
Other infrastructure-related projects saw to the finishing of a new municipal power system complete with an emergency operations center, Wayne St. streetscaping, and the recent completion of the city’s high speed fiber project. The latter, while holding some contention at a late-fall commission meeting, will allow Piqua to provide high speed Internet access to incoming and current businesses.
The city also continues to work on branding efforts to showcase many amenities, while earlier in the year there was the welcomed addition of a community garden plot at Pitsenbarger Park. The 65-acre area became home to a donated skate board park in 2013 and the formation of a new group —the Friends of the Piqua Parks— to aid in a number of park-related improvements over the summer and into the future.
Pitsenbarger Park was also the recipient of a $20,000 grant from KaBoom! that will allow for the installation of a handicap park, with a local business matching the funds.
There were also a number of events in the city beginning with the first ever National Go Skateboard Day in June and the second annual Activity Day at Fountain Park, the brainchild of Nathan Burkholder. Activities included everything from kickball to spoon races with the event held on the same weekend as hovercrafts and a car show descended upon the city giving everyone plenty of entertainment options.
Not to be forgotten, the tennis courts at Mote Park were revamped into Pickleball courts thanks to the hard work of the Public Works Department, with ground broken at Farrington Reserve for the Robert J. Shook Bikeway Bridge in late summer. The new bridge will not only connect the communities of Piqua and Troy but a 300-mile system of bikeways in Southwest Ohio.
Of course, 2013 saw to the beginnings of the new school campus to be located at the former Piqua Memorial Hospital site and the completion of a labyrinth and cremation garden at Forest Hill Cemetery.
There was also host of new programs that included a tree initiative, the implementation of the park ranger program, along with further work on the Safe Routes to School program, a joint 99-mile water study, and the pending construction of a dog park.
Don’t forget, another round of the popular government academy begins in 2014.
A welcome addition throughout 2013 included several new business to the area such as Buffalo Wings & Rings, 311 Drafthouse, and Can’t Stop Running Company, to name but a few. With the city receiving a number of awards from Healthiest Employer 2013, Tree City USA and voted as the Top Work Places and Playful City USA for 2013.