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Former state health director taking lead with RAPID 5

Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health.
Dr. Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Former director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Amy Acton, will lead a new non-profit organization focused on bringing nature closer to Central Ohio residents. The organization is called RAPID 5, which stands for Rivers and Parks + Imagination + Design.

"Nature is a place that is for all of us,” said Acton. “It is inclusive. And this particular plan for our meta-park system, one of the largest in the country ever made, is to put nature within a mile and a half of every one of our residents."

RAPID 5 developed from a collaboration with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Columbus and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). It will encompass the five major north-south waterways that flow through Franklin County including Big Darby Creek, Scioto River, Olentangy River, Alum Creek and Big Walnut Creek.

In 2020, Acton led the state health department in the early months of the pandemic and faced harsh criticism and even death threats for issuing health restrictions for businesses and schools. She resigned in June of 2020. During an interview with WOSU, Acton did not want to criticize any pandemic health measures since she left that office.

"What I've really learned from the pandemic is that if enough of us do the right thing most of the time, all of us get through,” said Acton. “And certainly, it was a very difficult time for all of us."

Acton said she sees her new role as another way to improve public health outcomes by connecting people with nature.

"Putting nature at the center of our communities and our lives and our well-being is one of my personal passions and what I think we are all yearning for at this time,” said Acton.

It’s estimated that Central Ohio will grow to 3 million people by 2050. RAPID 5 is one of several major regional initiatives to transform the region’s waterways and adjacent greenways and make them more accessible.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.