Athens City Council discussed ordinances that would authorize the payment of a membership fee for the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia, or ORCA, and the construction of tennis and pickleball courts during Monday night’s meeting.
Councilman Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, introduced an ordinance that would authorize Athens Mayor Steve Patterson to pay $90,000 to ORCA for the city’s 2022 membership fee. Funding for the membership fee is taken from the city’s transient guest tax, which is a tax from people who stay in Athens’ hotels.
ORCA consists of city officials from Athens, Nelsonville, the village of Chauncey, York Township and the village of Buchtel. The ORCA board is currently looking to lengthen the Baileys Trail System from about 30 miles to over 60 miles. ORCA was able to receive $2 million in funding from the state and an additional $1.5 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the Baileys Trail project.
The goal is for the trail to be 88 miles long, Patterson said. Additional funding in the future will pay for the next 20 miles of trail that will be added to meet that goal.
“I'm just looking at the level of tourism that's going to come into our county for people wanting to experience the Bailey and ride it,” Patterson said. “It could be as much as 250,000 discrete (bike) riders coming down here each year. ‘What are they going to eat?’ ‘Where are they going to stay?’ ‘Where are they going to use their spending power?’”
Councilman Micah McCarey, D-At Large, introduced an ordinance that would authorize the construction of tennis and pickleball courts. The project was first introduced to Council in February; however, an increase in estimated costs caused Council to refer it back to the City and Safety Services Committee, or CSSC, for further consideration, according to a previous Post report.
The original ordinance authorized a total of $250,000 for the construction of the courts, which was found to be less than what was needed to cover the total cost of the project. The CSSC and the Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation Department were able to locate additional sources of funding and proposed the city spend upward of $328,250 for the construction of the courts.
Council President Chris Knisely also confirmed the city’s solidarity with Ohio University students in condemning the recent acts of racism that took place on OU’s campus in March.
“We sometimes hear the phrase ‘town gown’ as if (OU and Athens) exist separately, but I would assert we are one community and one act of racial intolerance diminishes us all,” Knisely said. “For those students who have experienced racial or religious acts of intolerance, we want to offer a word of support and affirm that you're part of the community and a constituency that we are elected to represent.”