On Wednesday, Aug. 17, I attended a City Council meeting for the first time. It was me and a group of 10 others who’d come together with the ambition to have the bike trail in the city connected throughout our entire county.
For those who don’t know, we have a bike trail that runs along Paint Creek in town. On really nice days it’s a scenic route and one of the best attributes of our community. However, there have been complications in tying it together in recent years.
The first and most obvious issue is crossing railroads. From what I understand, railroad companies prefer that existing bridges and walkways be utilized. And also, they usually get their way.
The second and less clear issue is community support. As a citizen, I realize that any entity of leadership, whether government or business, can only go as far as the community will support it. That means that there is a reciprocal exchange of responsibility upon us as neighbors with those who seat that leadership.
I’m more inclined to share my thoughts on the latter than on the former issue.
For the past three years, I had been meeting different individuals all having the same idea. We need to get the bike trail connected and improved. We eventually came together as a group and shared the knowledge that we had about the topic.
One person seemed to know “this” while another seemed to know “that.” With the pieces, we put them together with the idea that connecting the bike trail would favor our town by bringing people from surrounding areas and helping boost the local economy.
Together, as a group, we walked into the city administration building and to the second-floor room where the City Council was about to begin the public forum. (As an aside, you can also watch City Council meetings on YouTube). We collectively acknowledged that we wouldn’t go in there with the intent to make demands and cause a big fuss.
Our objective was threefold. First, we would be introduced individually to the Council. A standard part of any meeting. Second, let them know our respect and gratitude for the work currently being done towards the trail and recreation within the city itself. Third, let them know we were ambitious toward the trail and ask what we could do to be helpful in order to connect further within the city, or to make it safer.
As a result, there was a warm reception from both the City Council and the attendees, and from the attendees towards the City Council. Both parties showed a willingness to make this a priority in the near future. In all, the meeting went as well as we could have imagined, and everyone stuck around to see the entirety of the meeting agenda.
A while back a friend and I had a discussion about how to make changes. He said, “Anything can happen as long as the people come together in order to make it happen.” The largest and most challenging “change” we need is the shift in the perception of our community. Ultimately, we don’t need change. We need growth.
Growth happens in various ways, but the type of growth I envision necessary is in a willingness to cooperate coupled with an acceptance of fresh ideas. With anything new that is introduced to our community, there’s almost this impulsive resistance towards it.
Just recently, a workout area was installed next to the splash pad at Eyman Park. Since I am known as a fitness enthusiast some friends asked me what I thought about it. Of course, I was biased and thought it was a good idea. However, my friends saw it as, well, stupid. They rebutted saying no one would know how to use it and it would be a waste.
However, to me, I know that there would be people who could utilize it, and I think something like that can change the impression and feel that people get of the city. Especially if they are coming from the outside in.
Say, for example, if someone from Dayton stops in town at a coffee shop. They have a pleasant experience, drive around, and see some cool things going on. That makes them want to come back and enjoy it again.
Of course, this is simply my perspective and opinion. It’s entirely wide open to other people’s thoughts as well. What I am getting is that it will be impossible to raise a standard of living, and thus the quality of life, in our town if we choose to ridicule rather than participate.
Showing up to causes that matter to you is vital to the whole of a community. It shows the right people that you do, in fact, care. It shows that you are invested. This makes things happen, and that doesn’t have to happen out of anger or a loud outcry.
This meeting showed me that individuals can come together harmoniously, with passion, and that there is an open reception from our leaders to make a difference.
Trey Tompkins is a local resident who writes columns for the Record-Herald.