Wayne Roberts has a vision for London.
In it, the city is no longer just a pass-through for bicyclists traveling The Ohio to Erie Trail. The path spans the state from Cleveland to Cincinnati, following the lands formerly owned by railroads and following canals which are now converted into bicycle trails.
Instead, London is a destination, Roberts imagines.
From the time the bicyclists exit the Roberts Pass Trailhead near Maple Street to enter the city, downtown is bustling with visitors and pedestrians. The old train depot on South Main Street is the epicenter, with its tables, landscaping and diner.
Across the street, a micro-brewery allows tired bicyclists to refresh themselves with a glass of a locally brewed artisan beer.
The vision continues a few blocks down: Brick buildings which once spent years as vacant skeletons are now filled with new businesses. Among them are restaurants, offering al fresco dining, while others are bicycle and retail shops. Down the road, an agriculture-themed petting zoo highlights Madison County’s rich farming heritage.
As the cyclists have partaken of London hospitality and depart, the county courthouse, standing majestically at the corner of Main and High streets, bids the cyclists farewell. They turn left on High Street and ride toward the Prairie Grass Trailhead near Midway Street, which will take them to South Charleston.
The Ohio to Erie Trail is about 85 percent completed, said Roberts, president of The Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails. In about two years, the paved trail will extend through Columbus, escorting more bicyclists into London.
“Are we ready for them?” asked Roberts during his presentation to London City Council on Thursday. “Do we want to have them to go on through London to the next town as they look for amenities, or do we want to attract them here?”
Roberts didn’t request council pass any specific legislation, just that members imagine the “what if” and provide encouragement to make the vision a reality.
Council members expressed support for the idea. Pat Closser, council president, said he had seen the presentation before.
“Every time, it just gets me thinking more and more,” he said.
Closser said the city’s biggest hurdle is convincing the railroad company to share the spur, a side track which connects to a main track in a railroad system.
“The vision is incredible,” he said. “How nice it would be to have something like that in London, and really give a push to the revitalization of downtown.”
In other business from Thursday’s meeting, council:
• Delved into a discussed about unexpected bills, which once again stirred lengthy discussion and friction, an apparent reprise of the last council meeting. Council members questioned auditor’s warrants, and asked why department heads were not present at the meeting to explain the bills. Council decided to not pay the bills until the next meeting in an effort to encourage administration to attend.
• Publicized a planning meeting for the city’s new Memorial Drive, which will run the length of High Street to recognize London’s veterans. The meeting will be 4 p.m., May 27, in council chambers. County commissioners have given $500 toward the project. Any overage raised will be put toward the Downtown London Association’s flag fund.
• Announced the London High School marching band will participate in this year’s Fourth of July parade.
• Examined procedures for citizen complaints regarding properties with unmowed grass. If a complaint is received, the city will look into the issue and, if needed, send out a letter to the property owner. If no action is taken, the city will mow the grass and bill the property owner. If the bill is not paid, the fee will be assessed on the property’s taxes.
Andrea Chaffin can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 19 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.