How Athens Police Department keeps its Bobcats under control during fest season

Springtime in Athens has rolled around again. With it comes beautiful weather, graduation, and of course fest season.

Fest weekends tend to be much more disorderly than the average weekend in Athens. As a result, the city always sees a necessary increase in police presence. With such an increase in population and risky behavior, what steps do the authorities take to keep these young adults safe?

The number of officers patrolling increases dramatically during the spring fests. Officers play a variety of distinct roles during this time of year. There are authorities patrolling on foot, horses, and some in plain clothes as undercovers.

Athens Police Department’s Mounted Patrol are the most iconic role that police employ during fest season. They never fail to get attention from students.

Mounted police begin their journey at the Athens Fairgrounds and ride their way into town toward the fest attendees. They typically travel in packs of 3 to 12 officers.

“We use the horses because it gives our police force more of a presence. We think that the presence of the horses and the view we get from being up high helps us to defuse and control situations before they can get out of hand,” said Ohio University Police Officer Bryan Newvahner. Mounted patrol officers seem to get the attention and respect of fest-goers much more effectively than officers in patrol cars, riding bikes, or on foot.

The Athens Police Department does allow for students to pet the horses, they just request that the students ask for permission before touching the animals.

A group of officers that I spoke with were all in agreement that an officer on horseback is much more effective at stopping and preventing reckless behavior in addition to maintaining order opposed to officers on foot. Mounted officers in Athens have been used since 1996 and do not seem to be going away anytime soon. They have become a staple in the spring fest image and culture.

Police reinforcements come from around the state from locations including; Columbus, Medina, Dublin, and Summit to name a few. They come from all over Ohio to support the Athens Police Department during its busy fest season. The Athens Police Department shares a mutual aid agreement where each department assists the other during busy weekends. “We need reinforcements to accommodate for the huge jump in population and risky behavior,” said Newvahner.

“We typically make around 25 to 30 arrests on any given busy fest,” said Newvahner. “We want to let students have fun but prevent them from hurting themselves or anyone else around them.” The majority of the arrests that law enforcement make are for public urination, underage drinking, or public intoxication.

Some of the fest attendees were under the impression that the police specifically targeted their party while allowing others to continue. This left me wondering, why do officers shut down certain parties and not others?

The Athens Police Department clearly wants to prevent and stop the reckless and risky behavior that comes with fest season, but why do they choose to shut down one party and allow the others to continue? To an outsider, each party just appears to have loud music and many drunk college students.

The main criteria that officers take into consideration when shutting down house parties during fests is behavior. “More often than not when we shut down a certain address it is because they have had several repeated offenses over a period of time at the same location,” said Newvahner. The repeated offenses usually happen later in the day, after students have already been drinking for an extended period of time.

Police did not always shut down street fests as early as they do now. When Ohio University was on the quarter system only a few years ago, fests would go much later into the evening.

Police began shutting down parties much earlier on the semester system because the conflict between fest-goers and law enforcement was so high. Athens Police Department found that when they prevented the fests from going so late, the encounters they had with students decreased dramatically.

As is to be expected, some students are less than enthusiastic about their parties getting shut down by the police. One tenant of a Mill Street rental property, Stephanie Anthony said, “there were parties a lot louder and crazier than ours. I don’t know why they shut us down, it’s our property.”

Each student that I spoke with seemed to have a different opinion on the police presence during the fests. Some were appreciative of the presence that they had and thought that it made them feel safer in a hectic environment.

I spoke to Mark Taylor, a sophomore studying management information systems to get his take. “I feel safer knowing that there are police all around me when so many people are drinking. They pretty much let us do what we want and only get involved if it gets too crazy, plus I love petting all the horses.”

There are also students who find that the police are too intrusive on their festing. “The number of cops just seems unnecessary, we have gotten more and more every year for the last four years and they shut down the streets earlier and earlier every year too,” said Brett Webb, a senior studying geology.

Officer Newvahner said that there are a few steps students can take to stay safe and avoid conflict with law enforcement during fest weekends. “Drinking on the sidewalk is and always has been illegal, so do not do it,” said Newvahner and a few of his colleagues.

The officers also said that respect is very important when it comes to dealing with the police. They are there to maintain order and keep students safe, they are not out to get anyone or prevent students from having a good time.

He also said, “if it is your house, try to keep it under control.” Recurring violations, such as noise, public urination, littering, and intoxication can lead to a citation and the authorities asking students to leave if they do not live there.

After interviewing representatives from both sides, students and law enforcement, there seems to be a good balance of control and freedom for the students to have fun without harming themselves or others around them.

Students and law enforcement look to have another successful fest season in spring of 2018.

I love Court Street, you love Court Street, we all love Court Street.

In this video I recap my conversations with a few alumni of Ohio University to see what they think about Court Street after leaving Athens, Ohio to pursue their careers. I asked them what they think about Athens’ iconic brick road and how it has changed over the years from when they were students.

Seventh Heaven

Walking through Athens, Ohio, a tour guide will point out the grandeur of Schoonover Center or the intricate design of Baker University Center; but to some, it’s the Vernon R. Alden Library that catches their eye and distracts them from the rest of College Green.

The library towers over Baker Center and College Green; its long, rectangular eyes watching over the thousands upon thousands of students who come and go from its contemporary structure. Many fear the responsibility that comes with entering the library, it’s where people go to be stressed not become stress-free.

For me, on the contrary, it’s just where I want to be while at college; well, maybe not so much on the weekends but you get my point. The windows, reflecting the blue sky or making patterns of rain on a wet day, are welcoming. As I walk toward the fourth floor entrance with its revolving doors, “The American Woman” – the statue in Wolfe Garden, – is always there to greet me.

“The American Woman” stands prominently outside the back entrance of Alden Library.

In the spring, fresh flowers surround the bronze statue, but for me, when white snow falls around the statue, and her figure is a stark blue against the white snow, that is when the art and the library are the most beautiful.

Although I enter on the fourth or second floor, it’s the seventh level that is my favorite place in Athens, Ohio. Rows and rows of books, red, blue, green, are all parallel to one another in bookcases that fill the entire square footage of the floor. Desks are situated next to the windows, where the studious become the watchers. At times, the ability to see out and watch the busy lives below can be distracting but the connection to the outside is also calming.

I hear people comment about the smell of the seventh floor, expressing distaste in the poignant musk of the old books. It’s a smell I appreciate, who knows when those old books will be replaced by cold, thin technology that doesn’t crack when you open it or flutter as you flip through it. I’m being dramatic, I know, but when it comes to the seventh floor of Alden I can’t help but be swept up in it.

No library can ever be complete without books.

But just what makes the seventh floor better than all the others? It’s not just the books or the view, but the silence that comes with being at the very top of the library. The floor enforces the no-talking rule; the only sounds heard tend to be the shuffling of feet, the faint beat of someone’s study music or the ding of the elevator. I do my best to chew gum as quietly as possible or take my bagel out of a crinkly paper bag by moving as slowly as possible.

People respect your study space, they respect your need to work diligently without being interrupted by loud conversations about weekend antics or who won Sunday’s playoff game (sadly, not the Steelers).

Alden Library is where I go to better myself, its seventh floor gives me a serene place to relax and focus on my workload. It’s a sanctuary for those who want to get away from the world but still be able to look out and see the busy lives below. For these reasons and more, Alden Library is my favorite place in Athens, Ohio.

Gamma Phi Beta: my second home in Athens

When thinking about my favorite place in Athens, my first thought was the best bars and special food places. As I thought about this longer, I realized the reason I love being uptown is because of the people I see when I’m there. This quickly changed my favorite place in Athens to the Gamma Phi Beta house. The best way to describe why is because it is a second home. Although I do not live in the sorority house, it is a place I can be myself with all of my friends.

Gamma Phi Beta big-little reveal, Photo by Allison Divens

Being able to have access to a house with multiple rooms is awesome. When I’m at the house I have the option to spend time in many of my friends’ rooms, be in the living room to relax or go hang out in the movie room. As I’ve learned the movie room is an excellent place to take a nap, which is a plus if I’m having a long day or there’s people in my dorm room.

My dorm room can be small and crowded at times. I have never been a homebound person, even when I lived in a spacious house with three other people. The past two years of living in a small room with three other people only makes me want to be out and about even more than before. In a way, the house is going somewhere else and an escape.  

Another fun room in the house is the kitchen. At most times during the day I know I can go downstairs to the kitchen and find many of my friends hanging out or doing homework. For me, it’s really nice to have others working on projects and being productive and caring about their academics. This motivates me to be better, and it’s fun at the same time. Also, I get some free meals each week at the house. This is always a perk, especially when I’m tired of dining hall foods but too broke to buy real food!

Another reason the Gamma Phi house is my favorite place on campus is because I know I will always be laughing there. I enjoy my time alone, but I’m very much a people person. While at the house, I have the opportunity to be a part of a family and hear all about my friends’ lives. Someone always has a funny story to tell about their professors or something hilarious about one of our friends.

I enjoy being at the house because there’s also a craft room where we can go to hang out and do projects or arts and crafts. I will be honest and admit that I may be one of the least crafty people ever, but I enjoy learning how to be better and try new things. At the house, we do many bonding activities. These can include anything from game night to watching The Bachelor or even decorating cookies.

Gamma Phi Beta philanthropy event, Photo by Abby Hagelberger

Finally, the Gamma Phi Beta house is my favorite place in Athens because I have the ability to grow as a person and bond with so many greats women that I can call some of my best friends. There’s a wide range of individuals who guide me and give me the advice I need to be the best version of myself.

At the end of the day, there’s always excitement and happiness in the house. It doesn’t matter if we’re hosting bid day or hanging out in pajamas eating Chipotle because I know that either way I will enjoy my time I spend there.

The recovery room

Early one morning in the spring semester of 2016 I confidently walked in to Room 321 on the third floor of Baker University Center. All a part of my “new year, new me plans,” I guess. Those plans lasted for as long as most resolutions do.

The door to Room 321 on the third floor of Baker University Center

You see, Room 321 in Baker Center houses the Ohio University Collegiate Recovery Community called RISE (Recovery to Inspire, Share and Empower). No, I’m not an addict. RISE does not only provide support to students, staff and faculty members who suffer from addictions and addictive behaviors, but also people who have been impacted by the addiction of others. This is where I come in. My father was an alcoholic for as long as I can remember until he died in August, 2012. As one would think, growing up in a home where the person who was supposed to care for you was almost always drunk came with its challenges. Needless to say, I have some issues.

Now let’s get back to the Spring of 2016. I had emailed Ann, the woman in charge of the program, to let her know I was coming in. Before, this my dad’s drinking and how it affected was not something I talked about, but I was determined to do something about it. So, I put on a brave face and told Ann my story. She was super nice and invited me to RISE meetings which happen every Friday at 3pm.

I attended three RISE meetings that entire semester. Don’t get me wrong, the meetings were good. However, it was not easy to open up and get comfortable talking about the things that were so personal to me. I made excuses (mostly to myself) that I was too busy to attend weekly meetings.

Flash forward to last semester: the fall semester of 2016. I was taking a Strategic Social Media class and needed a client to work with on my project for that class. I remembered that Ann had mentioned that RISE needed help with social media. So once again I contacted Ann, this time asking if I can work with RISE to develop a social media plan. She agreed but urged me to attend weekly meetings so that I can keep abreast with what was happening with the group. This was a blessing in disguise.

Students are encouraged to use this area to take a break anytime during the day

It’s funny how it was once so difficult to sit in this room for one hour each week and now it is one of my favorite places in Athens. I just needed to give it a chance. The room is always warm and inviting. Motivational and inspirational quotes cover the walls. There’s always pop in the fridge and coffee in the pot, and there’s a comfy couch that I can take a nap on anytime I need a break from the day.

What I love most about this room, though, are the people who fill it. It is so comforting to have a group of people who understand and support me. They always say at meetings that you can share as much or as little as you are comfortable with. Sometimes our conversations get really deep, but sometimes we just sit around and talk about our week, or whatever is happening in the world at that time. They have helped me to understand addiction so much more, and they also help me to keep my own actions in check since I know that it could be easy for me to also go down the path of addiction.

An Athens gem worth climbing for

 

A walk-in waterfall at the lowest point of Old Man’s Cave

Athens, Ohio is a small town full of life and character. Even one street alone, Court Street, can hold a million memories. But when stumbling home at 2 a.m. isn’t attractive, or hopping from bar-to-bar gets old, a real hidden Athens gem can give a person experiences of a lifetime.

It’s scenic and it’s worth every step. Even if you can’t make it to the top of the climb to reach the view above a waterfall, Old Man’s Cave has beauty no matter where you decide to stop your hike to take a breather. Nature surrounds you every where a person may look, while they follow the dirt path winding through narrow rock walls. No matter how far you make it on your journey through Old Man’s Cave, each section has a view that is worthwhile.

The middle section of Old Man’s Cave gives tourists a chance to take in the scenery

My freshman year I took a trip to Old Man’s Cave with several of my friends during the spring. It was the perfect time to visit, as nature was blossoming around us and the weather was great. It was ironic, as soon as my friends and I made it to the top, we were only more excited to get back down the narrow path to the bottom of the cave.

After several swindling and dusty steps, we traveled back down leaving the marvelous view we had came for. But at the bottom was sand, where you could take off your shoes and play in the water. Hiking for the view was great of course, but now we could be involved underneath a waterfall. Taking those first steps in, we could feel the sand beneath our toes and the water was fair. Giant rocks paved a path for us to hop under the waterfall where we felt sprays of water on us while we took advantage of the photo opportunities.

 

A small bridge over water gives tourists a great view from a far distance

The great thing about Old Man’s Cave is you dont need a fake ID to enter, or a debit card to swipe. Any age of any gender can truly enjoy what is hidden deep in an Athens trail. The adventure of getting there is part of the fun, I anticipated every step that led to the giant cave and the water beneath.  Little kids played in the water while mothers and grandmothers also took their turns. Photographs at almost every level of the hike were necessary to capture what you never want to forget, unless you are like myself, who visits as often as the weather allows.

I have never went and been surrounded by only college students doing college student things. The atmosphere is respectable and the people are genuine. From the time you pull in to the rocky driveway until the time you are standing at the highest point above all of Old Man’s Cave, you feel thankful that such a hidden gem is in Athens for those who need an escape.

Parents weekend, Siblings weekend, or either mom or dads, this is the perfect place to show them if you dont want them around a drinking and partying area. There is so much more to offer at Old Man’s Cave. If you are interested in more details, they have a website with all they offer, and the experiences you can enjoy as well.

https://www.hockinghills.com/old_mans_cave.html

 

Bird Arena – A place everyone must visit while in Athens

When I got to Ohio University as a freshman back in 2013, I was not certain of much.  However one of the few things I was sure of is that I wanted to pursue a career in sports journalism, but I was new to campus and was not exactly sure how to get involved.

Then one night I was given a tour of Bird Arena along with other freshman students who were also looking for a way to get involved.  I thought Bird Arena was unique and did not even know it had existed until I took the tour of it on that Friday night. From that tour I was able to wind up getting a job working with the Ohio University D1 men’s hockey team.

Bird Arena itself is not all that noticeable when you’re just walking around the Ohio University campus, but I would definitely consider it a gem of Athens because of the historical significance of the arena and the storied history of the team is houses.

Bird Arena does offer more than just hockey though, you can rent skates and skate around the ice yourself, which many students take advantage of.

Showing up the arena every weekend and watching the Bobcats hockey team play was something I started looking forward to, and it was neat to get the access of one of the media members.  I got to go in the locker rooms and also the media “nest” that is situated right at center ice and has a great view of the ice rink as you can see from the photo below.

Ohio hockey kicking off the 2016 regular season at Bird Arena against John Carroll University.

As I said before, I did not even know that Ohio had a hockey team and I soon came to realize that at Bird Arena, passionate fans gathered there every game day weekend to cheer on the Bobcats, it was quite the site to see for me.

The building itself is not that large compared to the football stadium and basketball arena, seating a maximum capacity of just 2,000 spectators, but when it is packed and the Bobcats are playing well, it sounds as if there are 10,000 people in the arena.  From the picture below you can see just how popular the hockey team is, there was a line outside the door for tickets before the opening series weekend last year. I was impressed by the line when I got to the arena so I had to snap this picture.

Fans lineup outside Bird Arena before a hockey game in 2015. During game day weekends the arena is usually full of passionate and loyal hockey fans.

Over my four years of following and covering the Bobcats hockey team I have spent plenty of time at Bird Arena, going there at least once a week, if not more often, to watch practice and speak with the head coach and different players for my articles that I write for the team throughout the year.  Whether there is a full arena or just me there by myself watching the team practice, I always enjoy my time at Bird Arena.

This link is to the Ohio Bobcats hockey website, where you can read all about the what goes on with team at Bird Arena.  http://www.ohiobobcatshockey.com

While some students may be like me when I was a freshman and not know much about Bird Arena or all that it houses, I would highly recommend taking a trip there one weekend to witness a hockey or to try your hand at ice skating with your friends.  It is definitely a gem on this campus and a place that is somewhere I’ll always enjoy going.

What happens to our favorite Bobcat bands after graduation?

College is a chance to discover the real person that’s been cultivating under the parental units for the last 18 or so years. For some it’s exploring the vices their parents attempted to curtail, others it’s the chance to think differently how they were raised, but in general it’s a time for self-discovery.

A few braves souls chose to do this in front of crowds atop one of the many stages in Athens. The music scene in Athens is unique as the influx of new blood from the university allows for a large diversity of musical acts to form and flourish.

The constant flow of new musicians is sadly accompanied by the older generation leaving Athens as they graduate or decide to move on. While the desire to play may linger on, it can be extremely difficult to continue when members may be scattered across the country. As their time in Athens comes closer to the end Wes Gilbert of Smizmar and Evan Amerio of Apemode spoke of their personal experiences.

Passion Works Studios brings community members together for fall fling

 

Passion Works Studios hosted a “fall fling” Saturday, October 22, for community members to mingle with Passion Works artists and celebrate the autumn season. The fling consisted of live music, free food, pumpkin decorating and more!