Hamilton to honor philanthropist, volunteer Dave Belew

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Biking has been something Dave Belew did as a kid when his family lived in Falmouth, Kentucky.

It didn’t stop when he and his family moved to Hamilton when he was a fifth-grader because, as he joked, “my bike came with me.”

“We’ve always enjoyed biking,” he said of his family, which later included his late wife, Marge, and kids. He eventually got a two-person bike for Marge and himself.

The 3,000 or so miles he’s likely ridden on the asphalt of the Great Miami River Trail could earn the former Beckett Paper Co. president naming rights for the trail. But it’s because of his work getting the trail built that Hamilton City Council ― upon request by the Hamilton Community Foundation ― agreed in November to bestow the honorary naming of Hamilton’s section of the Great Miami River Trail, from Joyce Park to Rentschler Forest, the Dave L. Belew Trail.

Those who led the charge to get the naming honor called Belew “a driving force” in getting the trail built. He said that term may be “strong,” but does not deny his leadership and effort.

“I worked hard,” said the 92-year-old resident at Westover Retirement Community in Hamilton. “We had a lot of hurdles to overcome,” which included many trips to Columbus.

Belew was chairman of the Hamilton Community Foundation board in 2001 (he served on the board of trustees from 1961 to 1994 and 1995 to 2003), during the 50th anniversary year. The trail expansion was one of the six gifts the foundation wanted to give to the community.

“We decided we didn’t want a big party,” he said. “We wanted to do something for the community.”

The six 50th anniversary foundation gifts also included: the renovation and re-dedication of the Michael J. Colligan Lodge, Lentil Park with a statue on the corner of Front and High streets, the skate park at Joyce Park, the City Entrance on 129, and Foundation Field at Booker T. Washington Center.

The Dave L. Belew Trail as it is today is nearly 10 miles, from Joyce Park to Rentschler Forest MetroPark. In the afternoon on May 10, the city will celebrate Belew and the trail’s honorary renaming, rain or shine, at the Fitton Center on South Monument Avenue. RSVPs are being requested for attendance, which can be done by emailing the foundation’s director of Donor Services, Jacob Stone-Welch, at jstone@hamiltonfoundation.org by Friday.

“Without Dave’s tireless work, the northern extension of the trail would not exist,” said Stone-Welch. “Not only did he advocate for the trail to pass through Hamilton since its conception, he also continually led and supported efforts to complete it.”

“It is because of these efforts that Hamilton is a bit more beautiful than it was before,” Stone-Welch said.

The Dave L. Belew Trail is along the Great Miami River Trail, which is more than 90 miles from Waterworks Park in Fairfield to the rear of Graceland Cemetery in Sidney. The GMRT is part of the larger Miami Valley Regional Trail network, which provides access to more than 350 miles of paved trails.


Key features:

Trailheads: There are six major trailheads along the Dave L. Belew Trail, which most are about 2 miles apart. Trailheads have parking, easy trail access, and, in some cases, restrooms.

Trailhead locations: From south to north, trailheads include Joyce Park (public restroom), Kevin Lodder Park, Fitton Center for Creative Arts & Monument Park, Marcum Park (public restroom), Canal Road, and Rentschler Forest Metropark (public restroom).

Downtown loop: The Fitton Center and Marcum Park trailheads, which are less than a half-mile apart, offer a street-level path that connects into downtown Hamilton. The street-level path and riverside path connect with a ramp at two locations, one at Marcum Park and another just south of the Fitton Center near the Columbia Bridge.

Features along the trail

There are a number of stops walkers, joggers, runners and bicyclists can make along the Dave L. Belew Trail, including:

⋅ The art galleries at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts are free and open to the public. The facility also features bathrooms, convenient bike parking out front, and air-conditioning on hot days.

⋅ The Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The monument includes an exhibit on 20th century American wars, featuring military uniforms, military medals and photographs.

⋅ There are a number of local businesses within a mile of each downtown trailhead.

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