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[State Elected Official],
The work that you have done to help keep Ohioans safe is very much appreciated and respected. We are facing major challenges of not only staying healthy and keeping those we care about safe, but also in getting back to work and opening Ohio for business. At a time when all Ohioans are doing their best to maintain physical distancing, the importance of parks, trails and public greenspace has never been more evident. Our citizens have responded and have been utilizing public parks at unprecedented levels – usage up 70-200% -- magnifying the critical need for natural areas, open space and trails within each and every local community. Initiatives funded by the Clean Ohio program are key aspects of effective COVID-19 response, particularly in terms of health, well-being and economic stimulus.
Our public health officials are emphasizing the need to prioritize mental health and well-being in response to this pandemic, and parks and trails provide safe and relaxing spaces that often, but not always, allow for physical distancing. Currently, many municipalities are opening streets to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, underscoring the need for supporting the maintenance and development of trails networks.
Physical health is equally important in response to the Coronavirus. Trails are great spaces for exercise - walking, biking, rolling - and provide a safe environment when they allow for distancing and should be accessible to all Ohioans. The current crisis has exposed many gaps, including the lack of safe places to walk and bike for a good number of your constituents.
State investments in trails provide significant return on investment. According to the FHWA, trail projects bring more jobs per dollar invested than does road construction and result in further economic stimulus. Trails secure lasting economic benefits for our communities as local businesses develop along the trails and our state attracts more visitors. This is an important time to continue funding maintenance and development of this critical infrastructure, and an FY 21-22 appropriation for the Clean Ohio Fund would provide significant value.
Trails mean business! Maintaining and expanding trails networks generate significant economic activity. Currently, bike shops are not able to keep up with the demand, and we are seeing similar trends for other outdoor recreation-related businesses. Trails generate billions for the Buckeye State, supporting a variety of businesses - ice cream shops, B&Bs, breweries, and the list goes on.
These challenging times require thoughtful allocation of state resources to address the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The current crisis has exposed many inequities in our state, and all Ohioans need and deserve access to safe and well-maintained trails. It is clear that there has been no better time in the 20-year history of the Clean Ohio Fund to continue trails funding so that more Ohioans can take part in these tremendous quality of life amenities.
Thank you for your thoughtful decision making and dedicated service to Ohioans during these challenging times.
Best Regards & Be Well,