Land-use study focuses on three possibilities for future

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005


An open house Thursday night at Ohio University Southern drew a small crowd of people with ideas and questions about what rural Lawrence County could and should look like.

This second open house is part of an ongoing study of potential uses for rural areas, under the auspices of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, with grant funding from the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and the Foundation for the Tri-State.

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&uot;We want to talk about what opportunities exist for economic development, what opportunities could exist for economic development and what opportunities exist now but may need some assistance,&uot; said Della Rucker, senior community planner for Edwards and Kelsey, the consultants for the project. &uot;This plan is not just about the next six months, this is a long term plan, a vision plan.&uot;

Rucker said early research has led to three areas that could be part of the economic solution for rural Lawrence County: Recreation and tourism, secondary woods products and agricultural or faming specialties.

Rucker said the recreation and tourism industry are already up and running in the county, but after they ride our ATV trails and hike in our forests, they go elsewhere to eat, sleep and shop. She said more needs to be done to stimulate small business around the Wayne National Forest and other points of interest.

Rucker said another potential economic tool is growing all around us and we need develop businesses locally that can take these trees and turn them into chairs, wood frames and other products.

&uot;I’m talking about more than just cutting it into two-dimensional pieces,&uot; she said. &uot;It doesn’t sound all that exciting but it’s a heck of an opportunity.

&uot;Lawrence County has lots of timber, some in the Wayne National Forest and some on private lands. … a lot of the wood is not being managed, monitored and selectively culled. … having a timber wood products industry can create demand for private timber.&uot;

As for specialty agricultural and food services, Rucker said such ventures can range from beekeeping to heirloom chickens to heirloom tomato plants.

All future economic development, she cautioned, needs careful planning to make sure the right development winds up in the right place. Creating and enforcing zoning laws are key to this.

&uot;I think Lawrence County is reaching the point where zoning has to take place to maintain quality of life. … People are reluctant to invest in a place where they don’t know what’s going to happen next door,&uot; she said. &uot;There are a lot of issues that can go badly if they are not addressed.&uot;

Some in the audience expressed their own ideas for economic development. Rick Jansen, of Ironton, wanted to know if any thought had been given to fish farming as an industry. Such ventures are profitable and popular elsewhere.

LEDC executive director, Dr. Bill Dingus said there has been some discussion but there must be a pool of interest for such an idea can go forward.

Cindy Neal, of Ironton, wanted to know if a large lake is a viable option. She said people with larger boats often must go to places like Grayson Lake in Kentucky to enjoy their watercraft. &uot;It’s a shame you’ve got to go to the river to drive 45 minutes to get to a lake to spend a day boating,&uot; she said.

Rucker said creating a large lake is not being discussed at this time. She said, however, discussion is imperative to determining what the community wants and needs to do with its rural areas in terms of economic development. &uot;Nothing is going to happen overnight but we’ve got a lot of opportunities here."