Buck Ridge Road, which is located in Springfield Township and roughly connects Ohio 160 with Jackson Pike, has been a point of contention for local residents for several weeks.
In September, after receiving a petition from local citizens, the county commission changed the name of a portion of Buck Ridge Road, from the intersection with Left Fork Road to the intersection with Rainbow Drive, to “Shadybrook Road” after a public hearing.
On Oct. 7, four Buck Ridge Road area residents and/or community members were present at the county commission meeting to express their concern over the name change. The residents questioned the reasoning behind the name change, as well as the notification system used by the county to alert citizens of public hearings on such matters. The individuals reported that many of residents on Buck Ridge Road were not notified of the public hearing.
The commission reported that it was their understanding that the name change was in honor of the Brooks family who ran a nursing home in the area. They further stated that the Ohio Revised Code outlines the notification system for public hearings and they had followed the law as they had repeatedly done so in the past in regard to road changes.
After this meeting, the commission received a second petition which asked that the portion of roadway be changed from Shadybrook back to Buck Ridge Road. A public hearing was scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 18 in light of the new petition.
During the hearing, Kyle Gilliland of the Southeastern Ohio Branch of the NAACP, told the commission that those individuals wishing to preserve the name of “Buck Ridge” had the full support of the NAACP and Gilliland outlined several reasons why preserving the name would be in the best interest of the community in that area.
Gilliland first presented a portion of the history in relation to the black community on Buck Ridge. According to Gilliland, the community has existed for a century and a half.
“The community served as a place of sanctuary because some of these slaves came up and they didn’t have their papers,” Gilliland said. “If they didn’t have their papers, at this period of time in the antebellum United States, we were in a position where it was still legal for one man to own another because of the color of his skin.”
Gilliland further outlined the history of Buck Ridge Cemetery where at least six Civil War veterans who served as members of the U.S. Colored Troops rest.
In addition to the history of Buck Ridge, Gilliland told the commission that the name should be returned to “Buck Ridge” since a name change will cause confusion and cost additional funding to change the signs in the area.
“If you have the road split up into pieces, it really makes no sense and it will contribute to confusion on the part of anyone from a pizza delivery man to an ambulance driver trying to find people on the road,” Gilliland said. “I suppose there is some need to have signs on the road, to post signs, if you have a continuous Buck Ridge Road, you don’t need that so you save the tax payers money.”
Lastly, Gilliland discussed the fact that, although the commission did follow the law when notifying the public, holding a hearing, and later changing the name, public input was not heard before the name change occurred.
“There was no argument; there was no informed debate like we use in our country to get both sides out and make an informed decision,” Gilliland stated. “You are going to have that informed debate today, I am pretty confident.”
Several of the residents did have various questions and comments about the name change, the most prominent of which concerned the reasoning for the change.
“The reason for the name change was not because of the old folks’ home that was out there. The reason for the name change was because one person was asked to show different ID in the store and they thought he lived in the apartments on Buck Ridge and he wanted to just separate himself from the people who live in those apartments on Buck Ridge,” stated Mary Armstrong, a Buck Ridge Road resident and Gallia Co. NAACP member. “One person can’t think they’re higher than someone else.”
Daniel Carter, a resident of Buck Ridge who admittedly began the original petition to have the name changed to Shadybrook, did confess that the reason for the name change was directly related to the residents of Gallia Metropolitan Estates, the apartment complex located on Buck Ridge Road.
“The reason for it [is] I’m getting laid down because of my check book. It ain’t only me. Everybody up there has had a problem because of the Buck Ridge apartments,” Carter said. “Everybody has had some experience with that, I’m sure. I’m not alone.”
Debra Smith, a lifetime resident of Buck Ridge, told the commission that people do mistake her for a Gallia Metropolitan Estates resident, but the heritage of her family outweighs any misgivings she may feel when those instances occur.
“When I have to give my address, they ask me what apartment, and it does kind of riddle your brain. But, I look at this way, I tell them: I lived and played in those fields on Buck Ridge before the apartments was even there, before Scenic Hills nursing was even there,” Smith said. “If you don’t like where you are, the best thing you can do is get up and move; get up and leave. Leave us there that want to be there and are proud of our history.”
Other community members told the commission to consider all of the factors and to look at the number of families and their history the name change affects.
“You’re not trying to appease one family, what you are trying to do is be right and do rightly before a whole community,” Gene Armstrong, a local pastor and member of the Emancipation Proclamation committee, stated in reference to the Brooks family that will allegedly be honored because of the name change. “What I’m asking you is when you put that into balance, which weighs more: Honoring one family or doing right by all of the residents of color on Buck Ridge and all of us that have ties to Buck Ridge?”
The commission told the audience that they must consider all the points made as both petitions are legitimate. The commission took no action in regard to the current petition and stated that they will notify the parties involved when action would be taken.