Kasich, legend’s daughters open Jesse Owens State Park

COLUMBUS — It only seems appropriate that Ohio’s newest – and potentially largest – state park be named in honor of a man just as large.

Joined by two of the track-and-field legend’s daughters, Gov. John Kasich today dedicated and opened Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area in southeastern Ohio.

The first ceremony occurred at the stadium named in Owens’ memory on the campus of Ohio State University, where he became a star, followed by another at the new park near McConnellsville in Morgan County.

The largely unimproved park and surrounding wildlife area offers primitive camping, fishing in lakes and ponds, hiking, nature watching and other outdoor activities, including hunting in season.

The initial $11.4 million purchase of 5,735 acres of reclaimed coal strip-mining land from Columbus-based American Electric Power is to be followed by additional acquisitions of 8,000-plus acres over the next three years to bring the total cost to about $26 million. The money comes from hunting and fishing license fees and parks and watercraft funds.

Marlene Owens Rankin, one of Owen’s daughters, attended the Ohio State event with her sister, Beverly Owens Prather. Both now live in Chicago. Owens died at age 66 in 1980.

“What an incredible honor,” Marlene Owens Rankin said. “He would be amazed and proud at such recognition. ... It’s more than he ever would have imagined, preserving his memory in such an indelible way.”

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