COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A project to increase access to central Ohio’s main rivers and creeks has a new leader, and it’s a name familiar to many.
Dr. Amy Acton, who served as Ohio’s health director during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, was named Thursday the director of RAPID 5.
RAPID 5 is a nonprofit group that looks to expand public access to undeveloped areas near Franklin County’s major waterways. RAPID stands for “River And Parks + Imagination + Design,” and the 5 refers to the Big Darby Creek, Scioto River, Olentangy River, Alum Creek and Big Walnut Creek.
“This is a vision for the largest integrated parkway system in the country,” Acton said. “145 miles of nature and not just nature — outdoor classrooms, new transportation, venues — [and] it is about environmental sustainability.”
RAPID 5 was an outgrowth of the early days of the pandemic when people left the house less and the concept of improving access to land near the waterways was explored more. Columbus’ Urban Land Institute and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission were involved in developing plans alongside local design firms.
Now those efforts will fall under Acton, who gained sudden fame delivering daily updates on the pandemic next to Gov. Mike DeWine in 2020. She was widely praised for her leadership but also criticized for signing health orders that temporarily closed many businesses in the state.
“I’m an ordinary person who had the honor of serving in an extraordinary moment,” Acton said. “It has deeply impacted me. People think a lot about the hardships and maybe a little of the hate, but I can tell you, my experience with this pandemic is there was so much more love.”
Acton stepped down from the Ohio Department of Health in June 2020. In 2021, she briefly expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat.