Ohio officials shut down Barlow rest area
More roadside stops remain under review
BARLOW TWP. — About a half mile west of the township’s blinking light at Ohio 550, the Barlow roadside park and rest area is no longer open to the public.
“It’s upsetting because it’s been there forever, at least my whole life,” said Alys Wagner, 72, of Barlow. “I went there as a kid for youth fellowship. We would have wiener roasts for the church there.”
The primitive rest stop, which consisted of a few picnic tables, grills, drinking fountain and a restroom, now sits bare of tables with the doors to the facilities locked.
Ashley Rittenhouse, media relations specialist for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the state-owned rest area was dismantled at the end of January because of a lack of use versus cost of maintenance study.
“The Barlow rest area closed on Feb. 1 as a part of the ODOT statewide facilities rest area optimization plan,” she said. “It had a 60-day comment period before we closed it and we only received feedback from four people.”
Rittenhouse said the cost of maintaining the Washington County property was about $25,000 annually for lawn and janitorial care.
“The idea is the motoring public is not using rest areas like they used to, they’re sort becoming a thing of the past,” she said. “The cost couldn’t be justified anymore.”
She said three more possible closures of primitive rest areas are being considered by ODOT in the surrounding counties, at the stop on Ohio 60 in Morgan County, at Fisher’s Park on Ohio 78 and in Fly on Ohio 7 in Monroe County.
“There will be public comment periods posted at each site when we decide which to look at next,” said Rittenhouse. “We do value public opinion and will consider all comments we receive.”
Township trustee Richard Best said the closure could defer drug use at the rest area and said the land would revert back to the Lynch Farm.
“This could be safer especially since the place more recently was only used by passers-by,” he said.
Township trustee Charles Seaman said church groups used to use the outdoor space, but within the past 25 to 30 years that use had declined.
“It’s sad to see it go but without a flushing system it makes sense that they would do away with it,” he said. “The asphalt will be torn out and the building torn down and the land will revert back to the Lynches.”
Dave Abbott, 66, of Layman, said while he hadn’t noticed cars stopping at the rest area late at night in recent months, during summer rides the area was frequented by motorcyclists.
“Times have changed I know, but we used to have our reunions there all the time,” said Abbott. “And the motorcyclists could all pull in there.”
Wagner added that the hilly landscape and wide turnaround on the asphalt had benefited both the community and travelers.
“A lot of people used that space for picnics, or even just to stop and use the restroom,” said Wagner. “Even state troopers would stop there.”