ALONG THE WAY: David Dix

Published:

Is the Muzzy Lake watershed and floodplain a key to unlocking the potential for an enterprise corridor between the city of Ravenna and NEOMED that could substantially strengthen the tax base of Rootstown Schools and Rootstown Township and that of the Ravenna community as well?

In its current unattended condition, Muzzy Lake's waters periodically flood, threatening homes in the area. That impedes growth potential because property owners rightfully fear more development will just give the waters of Muzzy Lake even less space in which to disperse.

The city of Ravenna, incredibly well endowed with water, owns a portion of Muzzy Lake, all of nearby Crystal Lake, and with its Lake Hodgson water treatment plant has a major voice in the control of the water that flows north from Congress Lake to Sandy Lake and then into Lake Hodgson. This affects the Rootstown Water Co., which buys treated water in bulk from the city of Ravenna to resell to residents of Rootstown Township.

The state of Ohio has also a stake in the Muzzy Lake watershed and floodplain because their waters flow through a culvert under I-76 and into a large settling basin. During periods of high precipitation, the culvert can clog up and cause the water to back up into Muzzy, causing lake levels to rise, again threatening homes and cottages.

NEOMED (Northeast Ohio Medical University) has a stake in the Muzzy Lake watershed and floodplain, too, particularly if its research and development initiatives bring new industries and jobs, some of which logically should be located going north from the campus along S.R. 44 toward Ravenna.

Rootstown Township and Rootstown Schools have a stake, too, because if a Joint Economic Development Cooridor along S.R. 44 going north were created, both would gain stronger tax bases that could enable them to be able afford undertakings, which they now might want to do, but cannot.

Assuming a Joint Economic Development District were set up, Rootstown could negotiate its outcome in a way to protect itself from annexation by the city of Ravenna, something it currently might not be able to stop were a determined annexation effort ever to arise.

Time for a regional approach

If all these parties are talking, we're not aware of it.

There is a strong rural sentiment in Rootstown that wants to keep the township countrified and pristine. I can understand and relate to that.On the other hand, the presence of I-76, a major east-west thoroughfare linking Youngstown and Akron and the founding and expansion of NEOMED, are game-changers from which there is no going back.

The best way for Rootstown to become what it wants to be is to take all of these elements and players into account and plan for its future.

The issue of the Muzzy Lake watershed and floodplain might be a good place for all parties to start. Maybe one of our state legislators, State Rep. Kathleen Clyde or State Sen. John Eklund, could help host talks focusing on the Muzzy Lake watershed and floodplain so all parties could put their cards on the table.

That possibly could lead to some long overdue regional planning between Rootstown, Ravenna and Ravenna Township to help spell out the future. That's an outcome that is certainly better than letting the future arrive helter-skelter, resulting in a community that causes those who follow us to ask incredulously what in the world the people of our time were thinking.

Rootstown in transformation

NEOMED is growing into a small "city" within the confines of Rootstown Township. Several years ago it added a College of Pharmacy. Traditionally NEOMED has served students enrolled at Kent State, the University of Akron and Youngstown, however, new links with Cleveland State University are starting up and producing promising future doctors who, once degreed, are committed to returning to Cleveland, some of them ready to offer medical assistance to those in the inner city who may lack access to primary care doctors.

NEOMED's enrollment is just under 1,000, but because medical schools often require or offer extensive research facilities, the campus looks larger. There are rumors that NEOMED may add new fields of study related to the medical sciences. The campus already has a STEMM high school, which adds even more students.

NEOMED has built a dormitory village capable of housing nearly 400 medical and pharmacy students. The presence of more students on the campus is being felt by Rootstown businesses, particularly stores such as Giant Eagle.

Because of the beauty of Rootstown Township and the access that I-76 offers, it is not unreasonable to assume that some of those who come to NEOMED to work or study may think Rootstown might be a great spot to someday own a home and raise a family. That might mean more people in Rootstown.

Planning will give those who already call Rootstown Township home a voice in determining its future.

Unplanned, Rootstown Township, like the proverbial Topsy, will just grow.

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