COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s governor on Tuesday (July 17) dedicated a new state park and wildlife area named for Olympic great Jesse Owens.
Gov. John Kasich, accompanied by two of Owens’ daughters, said that achievements of “heroes” such as Owens should be preserved to inspire others to “overcome challenges and accomplish their very best.”
Owens was a world record-setting sprinter at Ohio State University and won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. He died in 1980 at age 66.
“He’s one of my heroes,” Kasich said at the ceremony at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. “He jumped and he jumped and he jumped into glory — and history,” Kasich said of Owens’ long-jump gold. “He sent a message to Hitler: He was not ever going to triumph.”
The governor personally chose to name the park after Owens, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area in eastern Ohio was created after Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources struck a deal with American Electric Power to buy a large portion of a 60,000-acre (24,281-hectare) parcel. The state hopes to buy more land from AEP to create the largest park in the state.
The money came from hunting and fishing license fees and parks and watercraft funds.
Kasich was joined Tuesday by Owen’s daughters Marlene Owens Rankin and Beverly Owens Prather. Both women now live in Chicago.
“What an incredible honor,” Rankin said. “He would be amazed and proud at such recognition. … It’s more than he ever would have imagined, preserving his memory in such an indelible way.”
The land spans parts of Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and Noble counties in eastern Ohio.
From the ODNR
Governor John R. Kasich was joined by the daughters of Olympic hero Jesse Owens at the grand opening of Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area. This new 5,735-acre addition to Ohio’s public lands, planned to eventually span more than 13,000 acres, will provide Ohioans, as well as visitors to the Buckeye State, countless opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, hiking and camping.
Honoring the namesake of Ohio’s newest state park and wildlife area, Gov. Kasich said, “The actions of our heroes, such as the remarkable achievements of Jesse Owens, should be preserved for generations going forward so they can inspire men and women of the future to overcome challenges and accomplish their very best. This new park and wildlife area is a fitting way for Ohio to honor his memory, leadership and courage.”
Recognizing the importance of this opportunity to expand Ohio’s public land offerings, ODNR Director Jim Zehringer said, “Protecting such a large swath of land for public recreation and enjoyment is a vital step toward preserving Ohio’s outdoor sporting traditions.”
Jesse Owens (1913-1980), raised in Cleveland, was a world record-setting sprinter at The Ohio State University who became an international sports legend after winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Joining Gov. Kasich for today’s grand opening were two of Jesse Owens’ daughters, Beverly Owens Prather and Marlene Owens Rankin.
Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area was created through an agreement between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and American Electric Power (AEP). Located in eastern Ohio, the property obtained by the state is 5,720 acres that were previously part of the AEP ReCreation Land. ODNR has agreed to purchase additional acres over the next two years which will increase the size of the park and wildlife area to more than 13,000 acres.
Prior to the purchase, the AEP ReCreation Land covered a total of 60,000 acres in Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and Noble counties, which was previously all company-owned property that had been surface mined for coal. In recent years, AEP reclaimed the land and opened it to public access for camping and other outdoor recreation.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.