While I am becoming acquainted with Piqua, and particularly falling in love with Lock 9 Park and the bike path along the Great Miami River, my favorite place in Ohio is still Yellow Springs.
When I was a kid, I would go with my mom to Yellow Springs and it would feel like a mini-vacation and a mini-adventure traveling to what felt like an artistic and nature haven tucked away next to Dayton.
It was where I found my Jesus bobble-head, which has been along my side from high school to college to my current attempts of being a self-sufficient adult. He even made a brief appearance in my professional career, adorning my desk at Reynolds & Reynolds during my short work experience there.
It is where we found a used bookstore with a cat roaming around inside. A live animal inside of a shop!
It is where my college friends and I adventured through and explored the Glen Helen Nature Preserve.
It is where I connected with other writers at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. I was a workfellow during two of those week-long, workshop-type conferences held during the summer held at Antioch University Midwest in Yellow Springs.
For the first time I was a workfellow during that workshop, I had no idea what to expect. It was the summer of 2012, the summer before my senior year in college. I was sweating bullets, and not because of the heat.
In my head, I was just a baby walking into a lion’s den full of “real writers.” Turned out, it was not a lion’s den, but a community ready to welcome me. Every day, I felt like I was surrounded by “my people.” We all had something in common. We all had an addiction to words. It was an exhausting, intoxicating experience both times I did it.
Since then, many of the people I worked with there have published books, including Joanne Huist Smith’s memoir “The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle,” C.L. Pauwels’ murder mystery “Forty & Out,” and Sharon Short’s novel “My One Square Inch of Alaska.” It was a privilege to work with them and to receive their own input on my writing.
A place to explore. A place with unique shops and things to offer that cannot be found anywhere else except probably Amazon. A place to come and feel like you belong. You walk downtown, and you know this place is special and unique. That is what I want for our hometown of Piqua, too.
The recent shooting at Fountain Park early Wednesday morning after 1 a.m. was a blow to the community. People want to feel safe, and it is hard to feel positive about a community where you do not feel safe. One of the comments that stuck out to me on the Piqua Daily Call Updates Facebook post about the shooting was when someone asked, “How about the city taking their park back?”
Local government can only do so much. “The city” will have to include everyone.
As many people have noted, Piqua seems to be on an upward trajectory. Areas are slowly being revitalized. More and more events are happening to bring people together downtown.
I have never been someone who has really had a hometown. I grew up in Tipp City, but my parents were not from there. Then I went to college at Bluffton University for four years. Then I came back to where my parents live now, here in Piqua.
There are families with generations living in this area and the surrounding area, though. People have stayed for a reason. They know about the importance of place. They connect to the region differently than people like me who have only been here a few years. When they look at a creek or at a bench, they do not just see a creek or a bench. They see a memory, or a moment, as well.
Taking back our parks and our city can begin again with many memory-making outlets. We can go to the parks for exercise or entertainment, exploring the areas from Fountain Park to Lock 9 to Garbry Big Woods. If we want something unique to happen in Piqua, we can make it happen, like when the organizers behind “Down the River, Down a Beer” made that event happen, coming back to the downtown riverfront on Aug. 22. We can simply go out to dinner and take a walk. We can talk to our neighbors. We can make this a community where we each belong.
Having a positive, supportive self-image about Piqua can go farther than simply writing off this city with a negative comment or an eye-roll. You cannot bring Piqua back if you are a part of what is holding it down.
Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or at [email protected]