With that our 6th Annual visit to Columbus was now in the official record. From what I had seen, Columbus was all about people. Their hearts were big and their desire to be thought of as your friend was huge.
Back when we had rolled through what looked like was once the broad expanse of farming lands, I recalled how I had begun to question what had drawn so many to this area. By the time we had approached the core of America’s 15th largest city, I still could not figure out what the attraction was. What had drawn nearly three quarters of a million people to this part of the country? For as far as the eye could see, it was flat. Mountains or forests were not be found. Nor were its two rivers, Columbus sat at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy, cause for excitement as they lazily surged through town.
The fact that these waterways were too small for commercial shipping added to my curiosity. What was it that first drew all these great people to this land locked geographic center of the state so they could form the alliances that obviously still exist today? As soon as Columbus NBG Day was over, I had determined that I would do a little research to find out.
So as soon as I could, I asked MaryEllen. Not only was she a cyclist and an avid fan of the NBG, but she was also well versed in the history of her beloved city. Based upon what she and others from her staff told me, as well as the research, Lelia directed me to, here is what I was able to piece together:
When the state of Ohio achieved statehood in 1803, and a small number of cities began campaigns to make theirs the state’s capital, it was determined that a new capital city, located in the center of the state, was a necessary compromise. Ultimately it was a coalition of land speculators who made the best offer to the Ohio General Assembly when in 1812, named to honor the man who discovered America, Columbus was founded.
A little over a decade later, in 1825, when the state began an active canal building program as a way to transport the state’s chief industry, agriculture, to the markets of the east, Columbus soon found itself at the center of an extensive network of man made waterways. Reaching forty-four of Ohio's eighty-eight counties, and connecting the Great Lakes (Lake Erie) with the Gulf of Mexico (via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers) at its peak, there were almost 1,000 miles of main line canals, feeders and side cuts. Then, in 1831, when The National Road (later called the Cumberland Road and now referred to as US 40) from Baltimore was completed, the population boom that resulted spoke to the fact that Columbus was now the true center of commerce for the state if Ohio.
Besides all of the national businesses now headquartered in Columbus, Wendy’s, Borden, The Limited, and Nationwide Insurance, to name a few, that have taken advantage of being epicentered in this way, people are also drawn to Columbus by Ohio State University (OSU). At over 50,000 students, OSU is the third largest public university in the United States. The school’s influence on the city, in the form of culture, diversity and creativity, serves as yet another magnet to bring a great multitude of forward thinkers to the Capital of Ohio.
In terms of present day Columbus, here is what Mary Ellen wrote:
What draws people to Columbus and its environs today is the wonderful people who make their homes here, and the opportunity that they find for good jobs, a good education and an excellent quality of life. Don't forget that we have a strong and active biking community. And as for natural features, we don't have mountains or oceans, but we do have rivers, creeks, streams and ravines that offer environmental interest. The nearby Darby Creek watershed, for example, was recently named one of the Last Great Places in the country by the Nature Conservancy.
I did just a little research at bigdarby.org and found that at 580 square miles, the very high quality waters at the Darby Creek watershed are home to one of the richest arrays of aquatic diversity anywhere on earth. This as the forest and prairies that line its creek banks also house an intricate web of life including birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, even many rare and endangered plant species. All less than 20 miles from the heart of this very alive and happy city! Wow!!
In the end, I could see that as people kept drawing people to Columbus, they made sure to make the most out of these simple lands. Not only did they make certain that their watershed, for example was world class but all up and down the Olentangy River banks, from one end of town to the other and beyond ran a top grade bike path that hikers, skaters, joggers and cyclists were all able to enjoy. On kiosks and telephone poles, I saw flyers that announced the many different events, festivals and concerts that were scheduled to take place along the water’s edge. All this, plus they had their beloved sports teams from Ohio Sate to enjoy.
Tomorrow would find us on our way to Indianapolis. And I would be leaving Columbus, Ohio with a very warm spot in my heart.........