Chauncey: Where the Trails Begin!
Today I want to highlight the Village of Chauncey, home to the Baileys’ current trailhead as well as many advocates of this new outdoor recreation destination. While writing this feature, I had the pleasure of speaking with the village’s mayor, Amy Renner, and village councilwoman, Connaught Cullen, in the hopes of learning more from them about this community as well as their thoughts on the future of the trail system.
The Village of Chauncey has been at the forefront of the Baileys project largely due to its surroundings, as it is located in close proximity to Ohio’s Wayne National Forest, making the Chauncey-Dover Community Park an ideal access point for the trails. With a population of about 1,000 residents, this village in Athens County lies near other localities soon to be connected to the trails, including Nelsonville and Buchtel. Furthermore, the village’s identity as a former coal mining town has driven the need to diversify economically, and Chauncey residents have increasingly expressed support for the project as it has developed. Mayor Renner noted, “The trail system has given everyone a sense of hope that was once lost. Because of that hope, we’ve seen more community involvement and a more productive government because we now have something worth fighting for.” And the trails themselves are just the start!
Both Mayor Renner and Councilwoman Cullen represent some of the area’s most passionate and vocal proponents, committed to the well-being of their community and supportive of regional collaboration. Amy Renner initially moved to Chauncey in 2014 but wasn’t much involved in local politics until her daughter was born: “I felt really motivated to make a difference in our community because I wanted to make a better place for her to live and grow up.” Renner served as a village council member for more than two years before winning the town’s mayoral election in 2019.
Upon settling in Chauncey, Connaught Cullen also got involved in local government. She moved to the village from Athens after completing her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at Ohio University. Last year, she decided to join the Village Council as a means of becoming more invested in the community, and she now chairs Chauncey’s Parks and Recreation Committee. Though not involved with the Baileys Trail System during its conception, she is now eager to contribute more in the future with the belief that “there are many events that we could develop related to the Baileys that would promote the trails, the park, and Chauncey.”
Much of this excitement associated with the Baileys project stems from potential revitalization efforts aimed at boosting the local economy, particularly in the form of long-awaited infrastructure improvements and business attraction. Mayor Renner spoke to these possibilities, hoping that the trail system might “help us pave our streets, put in sidewalks, address the blight, help flood mitigation efforts, [and] replace our sewer line infrastructure.” In addition to diversifying the village’s economic assets, Cullen emphasized how the Baileys are “close to home” for many in Chauncey – persons otherwise somewhat removed from accessible recreation trails. “I get tired of driving elsewhere to hike,” she said, a sentiment commonly shared among others within the area.
Though the Baileys Trail System presents several opportunities for entrepreneurship and economic growth in Chauncey, there are real concerns associated with the influx of visitors brought to the village by these trails. According to Renner, local government is still exploring ways to sustainably capitalize on the Baileys, including an income tax levy. However, the mayor stressed that officials are “always cautious of adding more tax burden on the residents here because of the high poverty rate.” The possible gentrification of the area is another issue for consideration, should the amount of trail users continue to rise and drive up local real estate costs. Both Renner and Cullen noted that affordable housing initially drew them to the area, an asset that Renner later referred to as “one of our most redeeming qualities” in Chauncey. As the popularity of the Baileys continues to attract outside real estate investors interested in rental properties, the mayor hopes to retain opportunities for homeownership in the village while offering local residents economic benefits in addition to attracting new business.
Despite these concerns, both Renner and Cullen remain optimistic about the future of the Baileys and the region as a whole. “While the Village is a work in progress,” the mayor noted, “we have value and there are a lot of great, hard-working people here that are worth recognizing.” Though several difficulties may remain to be addressed in the village, there are many individuals like Renner and Cullen who take pride in their community and remain vigilant in their support of those who call Chauncey home.
For updates on the Baileys and different partners’ progress on the trails, make sure to follow us on Instagram @baileystrailsystem, on Facebook @BaileysTrails, and Twitter @baileys_trails. And don’t forget to be on the lookout for more blog features coming soon!
Written by Alli Mancz