[Note: This article was written by Jack Marshall who was one of the founders of the present Bath Homeowners Association in the 1970s. He has served on our Executive Board since that time, has been our President - as well as holding other offices through the years - and was our consummate wordsmith. He was the Editor of our Newsletter for many years. This article first appeared in the September 2005 edition of theBath Country Journal and is reprinted with the permission of the BCJ. Unfortunately Jack died on February 15, 2016 while grieving the death of his wife Jacqueline (Jackie) on December 23, 2015. ]
By now, most of us know that Bath was recently named one of the 19 nature-friendly communities in the United States. The source of the citation was the book "Nature-Friendly Communities," by land-use consultant Chris Duerken and Cara Snyder. The book, released in June by Inland Press, was covered in a front-page story by the Beacon Journal.
To be one of 19 communities nationwide - the only one in the State of Ohio - whose "residents safeguard landscapes, natural resources and wildlife," is a distinction, unique and welcome.
It serves to remind us that, gratifyingly, Bath residents have always been knowledgeable about, interested in and willing to act to protect their township and its abundant natural beauty.
In the 1960s, the late Garfield (Bud) Hoff formed one of the early Bath Homeowners Associations. At the time, the possibility of a change in zoning - to 1/3 acre lots - was a threat. Developers were intent on creating their own population explosion right here in Bath. To oversimplify what Hoff's group did, they came together, organized and took appropriate action. The threat went away, for the time being.
Later, a second BHA, guided by Mark Figetakis, managed to get a referendum on the ballot. It called for 5-acre lots as the minimum residential zoning standard. Lots of this size, it was reasoned, would block any move toward central sewer, ever, by developers or any other force. The referendum failed, but the point was made; Bath residents were not too fond of congestion and crowded living, they like nature and openness.
The present BHA was created in a similar fashion for a similar reason. In the early 1970s, the three Summit County commissioners - the county's governing body of that time - announced plans to build a costly sewer trunk line along the entire length of Yellow Creek. Experience then and now teaches that any time politicians get creative, look out!
What the commissioners didn't talk about were the inevitable lateral sewers - running in both directions - along the length of the stream. Neither did they talk about the attendant environmental damage. And all this was to "serve" the residents of the township.
At that time, Montrose was mostly pasture land, and Bath was literally a beautiful country township - a pleasant mixture of farms and farmers, homeowners and small businesses. Had the commissioners' grandiose plan succeeded, Bath today would resemble nothing so much as a residential Montrose, sort of an inhabited thicket.
(Note: It was about this same time that the commissioners pronounced the Richfield Coliseum to be the greatest enterprise to ever hit Summit County. And they subsequently extended a special sewer line all the way from Akron to service the area. They predicted there would be thousands of sports fans - again and again and again - flocking to the area and spending millions of dollars. The thriving Coliseum would be surrounded by neat homes and prosperous businesses. Of course, the Coliseum failed and was finally torn down. As I said, the term creative politician is the ultimate oxymoron.)
So back then, Bath residents became curious about the commissioners' wonderful Yellow Creek sewer plan. Curious ... and suspicious. There was talk, much talk and spontaneous meetings. People were interested in how this sewer would affect their township. Was there a real need or was the project mainly political?
Finally, the homeowners with property along the creek got together. We organized, pledged money, agreed that something had to be done and went to work. At that point, we called ourselves the "Creek Crowd."
Unfortunately, memory fails and many of the early attendees are no longer among us. But residents active in those early sessions included: my wife, Jackie, and me; Bob and Billie Whittum; "Perk" Peebles; Charles (Bud) Stafford; Andrew Simon; Tony Jordan; Dick and Sophie Young; Denny Markusson; Jill Vantrease; Don Varian; and Marv Lehr.
Drs. Aris Franklin and Bob Hemphill came from the disbanded Figetakis' BHA and offered their leftover treasury of about $250, which was promptly and gratefully accepted.
Anyhow, the Creek Crowd then mutated, and the present Bath Homeowners Association was born. The BHA newsletter came to life - pretty much in its present form - and has been published regularly ever since.
The BHA swung into action. Letters to the editor were written. Public meetings were held. Commissioners' and trustees' meetings were covered. Questions were asked. Bath residents wanted to know exactly what the commissioners had in mind for their township. And why? And what would it cost?
Among the projects undertaken was a study of Yellow Creek by The University of Akron. Dr. Andrew Simon, who was the head of the UA Civil Engineering Department at the time (and a BHA member) made the arrangements. BHA paid the bill. Among other things, the study found that Yellow Creek met state swimming standards at different times of the year. This seemed to shake any arguments about the need for a sanitary sewer to "protect" the health of Bath residents.
At this point, the commissioners must have started to wonder how such a simple project as a sewer trunk line could cause such a furor. To oppose the civilizing effects of modern sewers, Bath residents were obviously insane.
Angry and upset, yes. Insane, no way!
During the drawn-out fight against the project, some officers, board members and BHA members met almost every night of some weeks. We were trying desperately to figure out "what to do next."
It was at this point that BHA's annual septic clean out program was initiated. If residents maintained their septic systems in good working order, the argument went, there could be no provable need for any central sewer system. Successful from the start, the septic clean out program still goes on. Also, BHA was extremely well organized at the time, right down to having precinct captains. When we called a public meeting, it was well attended ? and loud. We got attention, not all of it positive or complimentary.
So eventually, the county's proposed sewer-line construction project - to "serve" Bath residents - was cancelled. It simply went away.
The Bath Homeowners Association and our members patted ourselves on the back. Certainly, we were a factor in the collapse, but we had a lot of help. Opposition grew from other groups; help came from unexpected quarters; embarrassing questions were asked about using federal funds to build new (and unwanted, unneeded) sewer lines rather than updating older ones, which had been Washington's original intention.
Also, while the sewer job was being oversold and opposed, construction costs skyrocketed and inflation hit with a vengeance. What had been costly but reasonable became too costly and unreasonable, and then financially unacceptable.
Maybe a sewer line in Bath Township was not such a good idea. After all, septic systems seem to work pretty well, really.
So the proposed sewer system that could probably have destroyed Bath as we know it today was the raison d'être of the BHA.
In the ensuing years, there have been many other BHA projects - with a bank loan and a lot of hardworking volunteers, BHA produced the first Bath telephone directory, for example -- but none quite so big and with so satisfying a conclusion as opposition to the county commissioners' trunk sewer plan.
Today, BHA thrives. Our activities and purpose are the same as always: To promote the general welfare of Bath's residents; to provide a forum for discussion of different views while maintaining the Township's character - Keep Bath Beautiful; and to provide citizens with information on governmental, environmental and other pertinent matters.
The annual Septic Clean Out Program is alive and well. The newsletter goes out at least once a year and more often as needs arise. And we still hold occasional public meetings and, during election years, candidates nights.
BHA's strength - financial and otherwise - derives from our members. Thanks to them, we have never been in better shape. On average, our roster lists about 1,000 members representing some 400 households - and we can always use new ones!...The membership year runs from June 1 to May 31.
Bath Township is a wonderful place to live. BHA's aim is simple: We want to keep it that way.