17:24 PM

Kasich, Owens family help dedicate Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area

What will be the state’s largest park honors legendary Ohio State athlete

A new state park dedicated to Ohio State University alumnus and Olympic hero Jesse Owens was officially opened today.

Gov. John Kasich was joined by Owens’ daughters, athletes from the Ohio State track and field team, and head coaches Urban Meyer and Chris Holtmann at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on campus. A separate opening event was held at the park in Morgan County.

“This is going to be the biggest state park in Ohio. Without question, dominating all other state parks,” Kasich said.

The first phase of Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area is a 5,735-acre addition to the state’s public parkland. Kasich said the park and wildlife area will eventually span more than 13,000 acres in the next three years.

“It’s just an honor. Daddy died in 1980, so for him to still be recognized at this point in time is a wonderful thing,” said Owens’ daughter Beverly Owens Prather.

Owens was raised in Cleveland and was a world record-setting sprinter at Ohio State. Known as the Buckeye Bullet, he won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

“Jesse Owens was a guy I studied when I was a young boy,” said Holtmann, Ohio State men’s basketball coach. “I was always so impressed and had so much admiration for his courage and for his trailblazing ways. And for the way that he used his sport to really impact the world.”

Marlene Owens Rankin, one of Owen’s daughters, said the park will be a permanent monument to her father’s life.

“It’s important because he was more than an athlete. He was an incredible human being. He had a tremendous sense of fair play,” Rankin said. “He was just a good person who believed in helping others realize the best in themselves.”

Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area was created through an agreement between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and American Electric Power. The park was developed from an area known as the AEP ReCreation Land in Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and Noble counties that had been mined for coal. AEP reclaimed the land and opened it to public access for camping and other outdoor recreation.

Kasich said Owens continues to inspire him and he hopes others will feel the same when they go to the park.

"It inspires me to stand tall to avoid the pitfalls we all run into as human beings and to try to bring a brighter, shinier, sunnier day to all the lives that we touch.”