Last Monday, RiverWise, in conjunction with the Ohio River Trail Council, launched a 30-day campaign to save biking and hiking trails in the heart of Beaver County.
As our campaign makes it very clear, for this to happen we need the Beaver County Board of Commissioners to own the Black’s Run Bridge, a structure that must be acquired to build trails near and along the Ohio River. As the campaign has demonstrated, and will continue to make clear, this project has lasted more than 15 years, involved more than a million dollars in research and planning, and is of interest to tens of thousands of residents of the region. western Pennsylvania and beyond.
To help advocate for the acquisition of Black’s Run Bridge, we created a comprehensive website, launched a public petition, launched a promotional video, generated a blog, activated regional artists to support our message, and planned and executed a relentless social media campaign across multiple platforms. If you would like to find some of these various campaign materials, you can go to beavercountytrails.com, where you will find the petition and links to the other resources listed here.
As far as I can remember, I have enjoyed a concise saying. In fact, many of my most basic guiding principles in life can be linked to a short aphorism that I picked up along the way. Several years ago, a colleague of mine reminded me that when I do community-oriented work, often “the journey is the destination”. When I first heard this joke, I knew immediately that it would be smuggled into my way of seeing and living in the world. I love this feeling because it reminds us to find value not only in the accomplishment of a future goal, but also in the vast collection of activities that lead to success.
This week I have given a lot of thought to my friend’s reminder that “the journey is the destination”. Over the past seven days, and as a result of this 30 day campaign to save the trails in Beaver County, residents of our area have come together and demonstrated what it is like to live in a productive and aligned community. on the mission with each other. .
We’re still calculating the numbers, but it looks like over 35,000 community members have engaged with our content on many platforms. Our posts have been shared and commented on hundreds of times by people from across the region and beyond. Almost $ 2,000 was donated to the cause. Art is created in response to the campaign, many personal appeals have been made, online conversations have taken place, residents have asked how they can help, articles have been written, and media interviews have been conducted. , And much more. And, at the time of writing, we were acquiring a new signature on our petition every 4.5 minutes, or nearly 1,300 signatures in just over three days.
One of the most encouraging moments of the past week was initiated by Dan Camp, chairman of the Beaver County Council of Commissioners. Shortly after the campaign was launched, the Camp office contacted the campaign organizers and requested our presence at the regular business meeting at the courthouse. For many good reasons, Camp has expressed some caution in acquiring a bridge. During a 22-minute conversation, the Council of Commissioners asked a number of thoughtful questions about the project, expressed their concerns and detailed what might be needed to gain their support.
What Commissioner Camp demonstrated at that time was thoughtful and constructive leadership. Faced with a complex decision, he called on the public to be held to account for speaking out on behalf of the issue. He invited public debate and he made his point. That’s what leaders do. They bring the contested issues into the public sphere and engage in deliberations about them. Although we walked away from this meeting with only a sure vote and maybe two, I was impressed by the seriousness with which Camp carefully considers the matter.
Whatever the final destination, last week’s trip was affirmative, valuable and constructive. The residents of Beaver County came together under the banner of Securing a Bridge, but in the process they raised the most important cause of working together in the service of bettering our communities.
As the first week of this campaign draws to a close, my warning is more and more the same. Of course, go to beavercountytrails.com and sign the petition. But, please don’t stop there. Share the petition, read, comment on the campaign, write your own posts, tell your friends, write a letter, create a work of art. Or, if you don’t agree with the idea, do something constructive to demonstrate that position as well.
The future health of Beaver County rests on an unwavering commitment to the journey to vibrant community. I was encouraged in his last week that we are starting to understand this reality more clearly. We are taking the future of our region in hand and working together to make our collective voice heard. In short, we learn to become the defenders of our own future. Regardless of what happens with the Black’s Run Bridge, it seems like a big step forward.
There is still a lot of work to be done in the coming weeks. And yes, the destination remains unclear. But, as we’ve seen so clearly over the past week, the value of the trip is certainly not.
Daniel Rossi-Keen, Ph.D., is co-owner of eQuip Books, a community bookstore in Aliquippa and executive director of RiverWise, a non-profit organization that uses sustainable development practices to create a regional identity around the rivers of the Beaver County. You can reach Daniel at [email protected]