Mary Lynn Schumm, left, and Beth Nelson walk by Riverside Park's Waterfalls Area in Findlay, near the new scenic byway.
Mary Jo Bockrath isn't expecting the sleepy villages of Glandorf, Ottawa, and Gilboa to be inundated with out-of-towners, but she is hoping the newly designated Old Mill Stream Scenic Byway will entice a few visitors to check out the sights.
"We've got a lot of historic things to see. The downtown shops through Ottawa are nice to shop at," said Ms. Bockrath, executive director of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce. "The area is just pretty. It's scenic."
After more than three years of planning, the 52-mile byway that extends from Glandorf to Mount Blanchard officially opens tomorrow.
The two-city grand opening begins at 10:30 a.m. just outside the Putnam County Courthouse in Ottawa. From there, supporters will travel to Findlay for an 11:45 a.m. ceremony at Riverside Park's Waterfalls Area. Both are open to the public.
Paul Staley, who was section chief of the Ohio Department of Transportation's scenic byways program when the two counties applied for the designation in 2004, encourages motorists to check it out.
"The Old Mill Stream Scenic Byway is a great opportunity to slow down and experience the quintessential Ohio small towns, villages of Glandorf, Gilboa, Ottawa, Mount Blanchard, and also enjoy the many attractions in Findlay," he said.
ODOT bills the state's scenic byways as "a Sunday drive any day." Mr. Staley, now acting deputy director of legislative services for ODOT, said the drive offers something for everyone - from historic homes to lush recreational areas.
The byway takes its name from the 1910 song, "Down by the Old Mill Stream," which was composed by Tell Taylor and, legend has it, was inspired by the Blanchard River.
Tom Dunlap, president and chief operating officer of the Findlay Automobile Club and chairman of the scenic byway committee, said the path, which uses both back roads and state highways, is marked by signs at every turn and is easy to follow.
Riverside Park Visual Services Manager Margie Stateler and Daniel Lamb of park service maintenance attach an Old Mill Stream Scenic Byway sign to a railing in Findlay.
"The county engineers basically were able to erect all the signs so you can get off I-75 and either go east or west and follow the route," he said.
The committee also published a brochure that details the route and the "top 20" sites to catch along the way. Among them, the 1878 St. John the Baptist Church in Glandorf, the brick Third Street historic district in Ottawa, Litzenberg Memorial Woods and Homestead on U.S. 224 west of Findlay, and downtown Findlay's Gas Light Historic District.
"We know it's not going to bring droves of people through, but we just want to have people come and appreciate the area," Ms. Bockrath said.
The route is the third such byway established in northwest Ohio after the 60-mile Maumee Valley Scenic Byway, which runs along the Maumee River from Defiance to Rossford, and the 260-mile Lincoln Highway Historic Byway, which runs on what is known as old U.S. 30 from Van Wert County east across the state to Columbiana County.
Tim Brugeman, director of the Hancock Park District, said with the completion of the scenic byway, officials in Putnam and Hancock counties now plan to work toward getting a state-designated water trail on the Blanchard that would extend from Findlay to Ottawa.
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