Connecting the Dots with Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston
January 21, 2016
When Mayor Ronnie Johnston shares a vision for Covington, one word keeps coming up: “Connectivity.” It’s an idea central to the Newton Trails vision of “a healthy, vibrant, prosperous community connected to one another, to nature, to our history, and to daily life through a system of greenway trails.” It’s why Johnston joined fellow Mayors in Mansfield, Newborn, Oxford, and Porterdale last year supporting Newton Trails with personal contributions and membership.
Johnston says research shows successful communities that compete for economic development take a holistic view. “The job growth and investment we’re seeing in Covington is great,” he says. “But, citizens expect the full package. They want the opportunity to experience health and quality of life opportunities.” He acknowledges the well-documented preference for walkable, compact communities among Millennials (those born from the early 1980s to early 2000s), but Johnston hears similar wants from older citizens.
The kind of connectivity the Mayor envisions starts with the Covington Square and downtown business district as a central focal point. It connects to existing and planned areas like the Eastside Trail opened in 2012, the newly renovated Legion Field amphitheater and fairgrounds on Mill Street, and ambitious plans for greenspace and greenways at Parkers Pasture in southwest Covington.
Such bold plans for linking the community raise an obvious question for anyone familiar with the history of trails in Covington and Newton County: What about the Norfolk Southern Railroad Corridor discussed for acquisition since the early 2000s?
“I do believe that corridor is a very valuable asset for all of Newton County, for a variety of uses,” Johnston says. “I support Newton Trails and their efforts to secure it. Preserving value and protecting our beautiful, historic, unique community are what I’m supposed to be doing.”
For Johnston, connectivity doesn’t end with city limits. He’s encouraged by working relationships with all the county’s Mayors, saying together they value collaboration over competition. As reported in our Fall 2015 feature on Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry, the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 20 between Covington and Oxford is still on track for late 2017. Johnston points to the Washington Street Corridor plan and the Yellow River Greenway as important ways to establish connections between Covington and Porterdale as well.
Circling back to economic development, the Mayor emphasizes that projects like the recently proposed retail development between Alcovy Road and City Pond Road include provisions for walking and biking trails and greenspace that would be accessible to Covington and Oxford residents.
“Our ordinances attract developers who value lifestyle and connectivity,” he says. “These types of developments make Covington a premiere destination where people want to live, work, and play. It puts us in demand."
Healthy… vibrant… prosperous… connected. It’s what Newton Trails is all about.
Photo: Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston at the newly-renovated Legion Field.