A Butler County city’s inclusion as one of Ohio’s best hometowns is due to its unique mix of small town charm and vibrancy of a larger city thanks to the thousands of Miami University students who call it home.
The November issue of Ohio Magazine, which comes out Tuesday, highlights Oxford as one of its four choices in the 11th annual feature. The other three communities chosen were Chagrin Falls in the Cleveland area, Grove City in central Ohio, and repeat honoree Maumee in Northwest Ohio.
Editors evaluated nominees from readers in six categories — community spirit, education, entertainment, health and safety, business environment, and culture and heritage — to help finalize their selections.
Oxford was chosen because Miami’s campus and the community “merge in this rural college town with a long history and a lively downtown,” editors of the magazine said.
With more than 300,000 visitors each year, the economic impact of these travelers is projected to be just over $47 million annually, according to an economic impact study conducted by the state of Ohio.
The city has about 7,000 “year-round residents,” according to Jessica Greene, executive director of the Oxford Visitors Bureau, and every August its population swells by 18,000 Miami students.
“These students bring a vibrancy to our town as well as volunteers, employees, and access to amazing arts and athletics,” Greene said.
Miami’s influence means Oxford businesses adopt to technologies earlier than other small towns its size, according to Greene.
That is also something the editors of Ohio Magazine also observed when visiting the city.
“We had the Ohio rural tableau and then the downtown was great and vibrant,” Ohio Magazine editor Jim Vickers said. “(Oxford) has the amenities you come to expect in a more populated area.”
There is a strong connection, he agreed, between Miami and the city.
“Students see that and it speaks to that it’s working, I think,” Vickers said. “This was the first time I had come to Oxford. I had never been there before. I liked the ties to the college and the rural feel. I heard great comments between Oxford and the college community. It is a vibrant Uptown. I liked the little coffee shops and restaurants.”
That connection is the result of hard work, according to Greene.
“We each try to think of the other as we plan improvements in our region, and we strive to make Oxford a livable and enjoyable community for year-round and student residents alike,” she said.
Oxford’s small town charm also radiates with the vibrancy of a larger city thanks to Miami University’s draw of speakers from around the world among other things, according to Mayor Kate Rousmaniere.
“Year-round residents in Oxford tend to agree that the two best days of the year are the day that the Miami students leave and the day that they come back,” she said. “We love Commencement Day in May when students leave and we begin a summer of small town life, including our weekly community music festivals, peaceful evenings, and available parking. And we also love the first day of school in late August when 15,000 students flock back to town and bring life and excitement to our community again.”
Oxford also has an increasing number of visitors for other purposes unrelated to the university, according to Rousmaniere, including many youth sports tournaments and the annual Race Across America, a coast-to-coast bicycle race with a timing station in the city.
Beginning this coming summer, Miami University will host the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State summer camp for five years. The weeklong youth camp attracts 1,200 Ohio high school seniors plus hundreds of staffers and parents.
“City officials and staff will be deeply involved in these activities, and the city looks forward to welcoming parents as they drop off and pick up their boys,” Rousmaniere said.
The city has also been paying special attention to health and safety in recent years. Its Coalition for Healthy Communities is a city-Miami-Talawanda school district partnership that focuses on improving services for and public education about mental health, obesity and alcohol and drugs.
City police, Miami and school district staff have joined community members in initiatives, according to Rousmaniere, who added that McCullough Hyde-TriHealth Hospital has $500,000 to health-related projects this year, funding playgrounds, recreation trails, and free yoga in the park over the summer.
Staff writer Jennifer Burcham contributed to this report.
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