Revitalizing Portsmouth for generations to come
Story by Ivy Potter
Photos by Mark Richard
Story by Ivy Potter
Photos by Mark Richard
Surround yourself with negativity, and attitudes will spiral downward. Focus on positivity and hope, and spirits — maybe even a whole town’s — will rise.
Last year, Portsmouth groups began working together toward the common goal of bringing life back into downtown Portsmouth and change the perception of the small community. More projects and plans are in store for this year.
Jeremy Burnside, one of the founders of Friends of Portsmouth, said the community needed something to bring a positive light on a community he has lived in for the past 10 years. The local attorney said many hours were spent by community members last summer as they worked together to paint and power wash the historic Boneyfiddle and Chillicothe Street area.
Then on Aug. 18, the community banded together to break a world record. With a representative from Guinness Book of World Records on site to confirm, the record for most plants potted simultaneously was broken with 1,405 participants, knocking out the previous record of 500. The attempt was just one part of the Plant Portsmouth events, organized by the Friends of Portsmouth group and Burnside. The event sought to bring together hometown-proud individuals who wanted to put Portsmouth on the map as a city that was taking a step in the right direction.
“We’re not a flash in the pan,” Burnside said.
The event brought in over 500 volunteers to assist in a giant cleanup effort of Chillicothe and Market streets, which came together to paint light posts, power wash business fronts and sidewalks and stain brick, among other projects. With the overwhelming support of the event from local businesses, Plant Portsmouth raised $75,000 to go toward beautification efforts, while ticket sales from volunteers launched them over the $100,000 mark. Additionally, the inaugural Town Ambassadors were introduced, those who will make it their mission to see that Portsmouth continues on the right path.
One world record proved not enough for Friends of Portsmouth. During the month of December, the group gathered forces for Winterfest and a second record attempt. The month-long festival featured ice skating, a live nativity scene, decorated storefronts and festive street lighting. On Dec. 15, another world record was set by almost 1,900 in attendance for the most people Christmas caroling simultaneously. It beat the previous record set in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Portsmouth Acting Mayor Kevin Johnson was among the carolers that night. He had nothing but praise for the Friends of Portsmouth and Winterfest. Johnson said Winterfest was proving to be a wonderful family festival. “We’ve been on the ‘glice,’ taken a carriage ride and just generally had a good time,” Johnson said.
By “glice,” Johnson was referring to the special plastic that was used for a temporary skating rink at Winterfest.
Two major projects for this year include the recent merger of Friends of Portsmouth with the Portsmouth River Days Committee. Burnside said Friends of Portsmouth is “honored that they asked us for a succession plan.” Burnside also said there are plans in the works for a mountain bike trail in Shawnee State Forest.
“We could easily be Ohio’s mountain bike capital,” Burnside said. “We know that it’s going to draw people to the area.”
Burnside said they hope to connect the Boneyfiddle District to the mountain bike trail and include shuttle service to and from Shawnee State Park.
Friends of Portsmouth has also orchestrated lighted arches over Second Street in the Boneyfiddle District. Although plans are still being made, Portsmouth City Council has been cooperating, Burnside said.
Burnside said most of the members of Friends of Portsmouth have fulltime jobs and small children. He said they just want to leave their children a place to live, work and raise their family someday.
“We wanted to instill hope,” he said. “We want to get that hope to grow.”
Burnside said there is now a feeling of excitement he hasn’t seen in the 10 years he has been practicing law in Portsmouth.
“People are now starting to get interested. By no means … we’re not stopping,” Burnside said. “We’ve got a lot of plans that will start bringing a tangible payoff.”