Go Ottawa wants to ‘create vibrancy’

OTTAWA — Jacqueline Langhals loves Ottawa. She doesn’t want to change the core of its small-town feel or friendly neighbors.

That doesn’t mean that after moving back from Hilliard, near Columbus, that she didn’t have some ideas on how to make the village she loved even better.

“Having the architectural background, the ability to dream is definitely alive within me,” said Langhals, the first executive director of Go Ottawa, a community nonprofit aiming the improve the Putnam County seat. “When I came back, that was kind of what I was doing. I loved the trail I used to ride in Hilliard, and I loved this part. I was like, ‘We can do those things.’

“It’s not that we want to be a city. I want Ottawa to be Ottawa; I’m back for a reason. But there are components I had experienced that I was dreaming about here.”

Langhals joined on as executive director in September 2023, but she’s been part of the group that developed Ottawa’s strategic growth plan that was adopted in March 2023.

She recently stood in Arrowhead Park along the Blanchard River, just west of downtown Ottawa. Crews demolished the former Arrowhead Trailer Park in 2014 following a disastrous flood in August 2007.

“In the last 20 years, we haven’t had a good relationship because it flooded our entire area,” Langhals said. “There’s the fear of that happening again, kind of holding people back. But the diversion channels are put in, and there’s been a lot of work done around the river.”

Years later, in 2023, the village opened a boat launch there and near the reservoir on the east end of Ottawa. With hope for a trails system that one day could stretch to Findlay, there’s a new relationship between residents and the mighty Blanchard.

“I think we’re to the point where we can start to kind of turn that relationship around and talk about the river as an asset,” Langhals said. “It’s so close to our downtown, and we can really start to connect those two. It’s something that can really be celebrated, going kayaking, using these trails and walking along the river. It’s something that not every community does have, so we should celebrate that we do have it.”

Go Ottawa works to make some of these dreams come true and, in its words on Go-Ottawa.com, “create vibrancy in downtown Ottawa and beyond.” Langhals said she’s busy these days looking for grant money to help with four main themes: Public spaces; streets and trails; hospitality and experiences; and housing in districts and neighborhoods.

Langhals and her board are working on beautification to an alleyway in downtown Ottawa. Go Ottawa was also one of the driving forces for a planned Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in the village, which allows patrons to carry opened containers of alcohol outside within a certain zone.

There are already public-private partnerships moving as part of the $4 million Ottawa Main Street Corridor Project, including the renovation The DuMont Building into a brewery restaurant and office space and converting the DeFord Building into lodging.

Over the winter, it sponsored a Christmas lights competition. In the spring, it will sponsor a planting-related event. They’re in the early stages of planning a triathlon in the spring to highlight biking to the reservoir, kayaking in the Blanchard and then running along the walking rails.

It’s an exhilarating time to re-imagine what the village could be, Langhals said.

“It’s challenging, but also it’s kind of the reason I was attracted to this,” she said. “It’s like the idea of tabula rasa. All right, we have a blank slate. We can make this what we want it and what we need to be. That can kind of ebb and flow and change over time. That, to me, is kind of exciting.”


Many businesses and organizations started right here in the Lima region, with the goal of making an impact in the region. This year’s Celebrating Our Spirit looks at those trailblazers. Read more stories at LimaOhio.com/tag/spirit.

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.