Portsmouth’s relationship with the river was complex. For decades, Portsmouth thrived thanks to the rivers, railways and roads that stabilized industry here. In 1937, it became such an obvious threat that we shut it down. I eventually left the industry. Water activities are starting to slow down. However, in recent years, with the renewal of the days of the river bringing more interest in water sports and river activities, and the City of Portsmouth examining development options, the river is now seen as a major resource again.
The final step towards a rejuvenated River comes in the form of a new park addition to York, with 8 new pieces of exercise equipment added to the site.
“The idea is we have this beautiful river with the rolling foothills of Appalachia that people love to watch and be around, but there’s not much to do,” said Joseph Pratt, chief executive of Main Street Portsmouth. “With this new expansion, cyclists can stick around and add other elements to their workout, parents can let their kids play on the playground, or friends can just meet up and enjoy the equipment and talk as the boats go by and wind up the river. We think it’s a great new addition to downtown.”
This type of park is not uncommon in the area and Pratt says that was also part of the plan.
“Ultimately, Main Street is looking at several large riverfront projects that we want to get done. Some of those things stem from a years-old riverfront development plan put together by the America’s Best Communities competition we’ve been in. Still, this was an obvious first, because Its uniqueness and modernity. We have nothing like it in the region.”
Pratt also commented on the development of outdoor recreation as a big draw.
Tracy Shearer, Mayor Sean Dunn, and all three commissioners do a lot to liven up outdoor recreation, especially when we look at the river. When we look at everyone playing well together, taking different pieces of the puzzle, it means we’re much more guaranteed to win. In the end. I really respect what Tracy and the rest are accomplishing and I’m honored to be among them.”
The equipment was planned by Pratt and local gym owner Dale King, who focuses a lot of training outdoors.
“The combination of sweat and sunlight is the most powerful way to increase physical fitness, strengthen immunity, and improve mental health,” King said. “The equipment and location are ideal for CrossFit, yoga, running/walking or meditation. Grateful to Main Street Portsmouth for investing in the health of our community.”
In 2020, the Scioto Foundation Board of Governors awarded Main Street Portsmouth $60,000 for Operation Riverfront Shapeup. This project is a recipient of the Scioto Foundation’s Rethink Portsmouth City Center grant initiative.
“The Mainstreet Portsmouth project, ‘Operation Riverfront Shapeup’, is an excellent example of putting ideas into practice,” said Kim Catlip, Executive Director of Scioto. “Based on planning from the ABC project, many years ago, this project is now a reality due to the tenacity of Joseph Pratt and Main Street Portsmouth to make it happen. We at the Scioto Foundation are delighted to be supporting the project. Congratulations to all!”
Since 2019, the Scioto Foundation Board of Directors has awarded over $225,000 in grants from the Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth Grant Initiative. This grant initiative has been developed to attract additional investment in the Portsmouth city center area, while also building momentum for continued community collaboration.
The Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth initiative began with a community strategic planning session in April 2019 to create a vision for downtown Portsmouth. Key to the summit was the possibility for organizations to apply for grants at their end based on important downtown issues,” said Catlip. “Rethinking Portsmouth city center had two funding priorities, direct projects, and planning/feasibility studies. Since 2019, the Scioto Foundation has funded 4 projects totaling $250,000 and 2 planning projects totaling $62,500 for a grand total of $312,500. The RFP for 2023 will be released in late spring with details on future funding opportunities.”
For more information about the Rethinking Downtown Portsmouth Grant initiative, please contact the Scioto Foundation during business hours by calling (740) 354-4612.
Reiser Construction Main Street Portsmouth assist with installation
Dale King tries out new equipment
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