For most of his life, local Marietta resident and business owner Ryan Smith has been an outdoor enthusiast. Since he was a child, Ryan has biked, skied, kayaked and participated in other various outdoor pursuits. Ryan views the Mid-Ohio Valley as a place where people can enjoy a variety of outdoor adventures, whether they like mountain biking or kayaking. Over the years, Ryan has strived to highlight these opportunities to help both locals and visitors of the area notice and partake in these outdoor opportunities.
“I already see Marietta as an incredible outdoor destination and feel blessed to call it home,” Ryan remarked. “I want residents and visitors to also realize all of the outdoor opportunities in the area and for the presence of those opportunities to be at the forefront of our local culture.”
For the last several years, Ryan’s efforts to accentuate the area’s outdoor appeal are numerous and apparent, especially in the local bike trail developments. The Marietta City Trail Network initiative began in 2005 with an off-road segment on the campus of Washington State Community College. Smith said that the development of these trails have been “a collaborative effort between the City of Marietta, the River Valley Mountain Bike Association, Friends of the Lower Muskingum River, Marietta City Schools, Washington County Health Department, numerous private property owners and countless volunteers.” Ryan, who has been part of the networking initiative for years, also said that the trails have expanded over 25 miles in length in just the city alone.
“Prior to the development of the Marietta Trail Network, I spent many years volunteering with the River Valley Mountain Bike Association maintaining the trails in the Marietta Unit of Wayne National Forest,” Ryan commented. While Ryan wasn’t part of the first phases of the Marietta River Trail, he served as a member of the Mayor’s Alternative Transportation Advisory Council (MATAC) for almost a decade. “MATAC reviews upcoming plans for the expansion of the River Trail as well as other city projects that could affect pedestrians and other forms of alternative transportation,” Ryan explained. Ryan also said that the MATAC helped to create plans that accommodated pedestrians when the Washington Street Bridge was replaced, which resulted in a safer, wider and handicap accessible sidewalk.
Community involvement doesn’t stop there for Ryan, who is a five-year member and a fourth-year member of the Marietta Main Street Board of Directors. The organization works to restore and improve Marietta’s historic downtown by partnering with businesses and maintaining the downtown’s appearance. Smith currently chairs the Marketing and Promotions Committee of the organization, but will serve as the President of the board this year.
The Rivers Trails & Ales Festival is one of several downtown events that Marietta Main Street funds. Marietta Main Street also works with organizations such as River Valley Mountain Bike Association, Marietta Rowing & Cycling Club and Blennerhassett Bicycle Club, as well as several private donors and volunteers. Ryan, who originally came up with the idea for the festival, was inspired by the Fruita Fat Tire Festival in Fruita, Colo.
“I attended their event many years ago and really liked the feel of it and the way that it highlighted their local trail system,” Ryan said. “Expanding on that concept, with the addition of river events and other social events, the festival has grown into something much larger than I ever imagined it to be.” According to Ryan, his goal for the festival was to highlight the outdoor opportunities along with historic, downtown Marietta.
In addition to his community involvement, Ryan joined the downtown merchants and became a small business owner. He entertained the idea of starting a business after he graduated with a business degree from Marietta College. In the summer of 2011, Smith operated a kayak livery service from within the same building that is now home to the Marietta Adventure Company. The livery service provided kayak rentals and also helped Ryan to gauge local interest in a potential shop. After one of the area’s main bicycle shops, the Vienna Bike Shop, closed during the next winter, Ryan said that it created a void for bike enthusiasts in the area. He saw the opportunity to fill that void with the Marietta Adventure Company, which opened in the spring of 2012.
While the store is a retailer for several outdoor equipment and materials, its known for selling a variety of bikes and kayaks. During the warmer months, the Marietta Adventure Company offers guided kayak tours that focus on the local waterways, which include the Ohio, Muskingum and Little Muskingum rivers as well as Duck Creek. The store also offers maps and information on the area for those who want to explore the Mid-Ohio Valley’s outdoor possibilities.
Ryan continues to look to improve and better shape Marietta and the surrounding area’s outdoor pursuits for both its residents and visitors by creating better maps, route descriptions, trail connections and increasing river access points. Ryan also said that there are several other projects in the works. “I’ve recently worked with River Valley Mountain Bike Association President Drew Smithberger on a long range plan to connect the City of Marietta to the Marietta Unit of Wayne National Forest via the Pioneer Trail, a long distance off-road mountain bike trail,” Ryan said. “A connection like this would provide mountain bikers and backpackers with the opportunity to take on multi-day trips, starting and finishing in Marietta.”
Portions of the Pioneer Trail already exist in Marietta and Wayne National Forest. Ryan said that the project will involve working with private property owners to develop an off-road route in the nine mile span between the segments. He also said that a trail building project is currently in the works with the Marietta City Trail Network that will add about five miles of a singletrack near the Broughton’s Wildlife Area “with the hope of better integrating trails at the wildlife area into the rest of the trail network.”
With the pursuit of an active group working on the Athens-Belpre Rail Trail, which would connect trails in Athens and Washington Counties, specifically the Moonville Rail Trail and Hockhocking-Adena bikeway in the west with the North Bend Rail Trail in the east, Ryan sees the opportunity to connect Marietta to the trails as well. The future of outdoor pursuits in the area is endless and fruitful for Ryan, who continues to work toward putting Marietta on the map for adventurists to visit and to explore the opportunities that the area offers.
“We’ve got something special here, and the future’s looking bright,” Ryan said, smiling.