By- Nathan Bevil, Young Ohio Presevationists
While the State of Ohio is known for its industrial heritage the sites associated with that history are quite limited. Beyond our cities and villages are all the farms and cross roads communities that make up the Ohio landscape—the barns, fields, cemeteries, roadside stands, and forests that have been inhabited for over 200 years. And then there are the countless resources we don’t see—the archaeological sites that are hidden beneath the ground that tell the long story of Ohioans that predate European contact. All of these sites and places, above and below ground, make up a large part of the story of Ohio. Yet many of them are in danger.
In the State of Ohio historic preservation is only as strong as your local government. In cities and villages you can create just about any sort of local historic preservation ordinance you want. The same is not true for counties and townships. According to the Ohio Revised Code anything outside of a municipality has limited power, meaning that historic and archaeological resources located in those unincorporated areas are at risk.
The loss of rural resources is especially distressing. As farms are consolidated into larger corporate enterprises the need for individual farmsteads is eliminated. Barns, outbuildings, and even the farmhouse can be demolished to make way for more crops. Small crossroads communities, serving the scattered farms within the township, are decimated—too small to remain a village. Small commercial buildings are left to collapse, citizens driving further and further to big-box retailers and strip malls. The community character is lost to rot.
Archaeological resources are even more threatened. Between oil and gas exploration and ever expanding corporate farming there is little to protect archaeological resources if they are uncovered. There has been limited survey of these sites and this has created large problems.
So, what can be done? How can we save these important resources? It all starts with advocacy. Explaining why these resources matter—and how our elected officials and local township and county trustees can do something about it. First and foremost these trustees can agree that these historic resources, wherever they may be within the jurisdiction, are worth investment in repairs and maintenance. Secondly they can seek out the tools available to them to offer protection from outside forces.
As advocates it is also important to talk with your state legislators. Without additional powers granted in the Ohio Revised Code it is difficult to craft ordinances or resolutions to protect historic and archaeological resources. Be an advocate to your legislators to help protect the rural resources that help define Ohio.