Ecotourism is being promoted in southeast Ohio as Rural Action hosts the Ride Through Time Guided Bicycle Tour.
Madison Donohue, an AmeriCorps member serving Rural Action and a member of the Environmental Education team, worked together with Emily Walter, an AmeriCorps member serving Rural Action and a member of the Environmental Education team and Ingrid Buckley, a local historian, to put together the bike tour.
“The route took us down old 33, to lock 19, then on to Haydenville, around to the Ora E. Anderson trail at the Rutherford Wetland and back to Nelsonville through Carbon Hill,” Buckley said in an email. “These stops were chosen by Emily and Madison since they all hold historic significance to the area and all fall along the 17.5 mile loop that was chosen.”
The tour focuses on early industry in the region, how and why settlements were built where they were and the connection to local environmental history. Buckley said she wanted to make it clear the region's history did not simply start when white settlers arrived in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
“People had always been living on the land that we now call southeast Ohio,” Buckley said in an email. “From the mound builders to the Delaware and Wyandot, this area was populated by inhabitants using the natural resources available here to cultivate trade networks, communities, and so on.”
In addition to the in-person tour, Donohue said it’s nice having the hybrid option because one can do it whenever they want or in segments.
“If you don't want to do the whole 17 and a half miles, you can park your car halfway or do it however you want,” Donohue said. “If you are someone who's at risk, or more vulnerable to recepting COVID, it might be a better choice for you that way as well.”
After previously attempting to host the tour in 2020, Rural Action decided to create the self-guided option with a map including all historical information for the route and a $10 food voucher to Nelsonville’s Mama Renie’s Pizza.
Some stops include a visit to Haydenville to check out the local architecture and the Ora E. Anderson Nature Trail with a discussion about local ecology.
Donohue said they created this opportunity in the first place with the hope of promoting ecotourism.
Dan Vorisek, director of the Resilient Communities Program with Rural Action, said Rural Action has worked as the networker to help secure some of the funds to bring partners together and help provide funds to the region so they can grow the recreation tourism economy more.
“(Ecotourism) gives communities a rallying point, something to look toward and plan for and also to have some pride in,” Vorisek said. “It brings visitors and visitor dollars and spending to the community.”
The ride, although leveled moderate to hard with a max grade at 16%, helps locals learn regional history and gain confidence in their bike riding abilities.
“Personally I have always felt hesitant to bike on busy country roads by myself,” Buckley said in an email. “Cars are always going too fast and there is usually not a shoulder to ride on...which is why this tour was a great thing to be a part of. With 14 people all lined up on the side of the road, taking our time climbing the hills, I felt more seen and acknowledged by drivers, and therefore safer.”
Vorisek said proper recreation is a really great way to connect socially to people, and it’s been something hard to find the past year.
“This is a really fascinating part of the state of Ohio,” Vorisek said. “(The) towns the bike tour goes through, there’s some interesting history to learn.”
Buckley said there is something so refreshing and wonderful about spending time with and getting to know a group of strangers.
“I would say the best part about these types of events is that they help foster a sense of community among those who participate,” Buckley said in an email. “At least half of us showed up not knowing each other and by the end it felt like we had all bonded over the shared experience.”