BARNESVILLE - Walking along the village streets of Barnesville is almost like taking a trip to a bygone era, as homes with wrought iron gates and small shops filled with antiques are plentiful.
However, with economic growth from the ever-expanding oil and natural gas industry on the way, Barnesville and its nearly 4,200 residents are far from a sleepy little town.
"We are definitely seeing economic growth from the oil and gas industry," said Mayor Ron Bischof. "We are seeing an upswing in homes receiving improvements by some folks who signed gas leases, as well."
Photos by Casey Junkins
As a community of just under 4,200 people, Barnesville offers the charm of a small town but some of the amenities found in larger cities, village officials said.
Bischof cites Force Inc. - the oilfield services firm that recently moved into the former Bob's of Barnesville location east of the village along Ohio 147 - as an example of the growth he expects the village to see.
"We have so much going for us with this oil and gas industry," added Administrator Roger Deal. "Barnesville is in position to capitalize."
However, Bischof and Deal are also mindful of the potential drawbacks of natural gas drilling, particularly in terms of possible water contamination and street damage.
Barnesville Calendar Of Events
- April 26, Community Spring Banquet
- June 30, Chicken BBQ
- Sept. 27-30, Pumpkin Festival
"We are very proud of our water quality," said Deal. "We will be keeping a close eye on any drilling activity that takes place near our water sources to make sure there is no contamination."
As for the current state of the village, Bischof said officials work hard to keep the aesthetics as pleasing as possible.
He also said the village works hard to offer as many services as one may find in a larger city as possible.
"We have our own hospital and our own public swimming pool at a time when many communities have had to close their pools," he said.
"Barnesville, as a community, extends beyond the village boundaries to places like Hendrysburg, Fairview and Somerton," he said of these small western Belmont County communities.
"A lot of people in those places identify themselves with us too."
To many outsiders, the village is best-known as the home of the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival, which takes place in the early fall every year.
"It (the festival) has a rich history. A small group started it over 40 years ago, and it has just continued to grow," said Bischof.
"It's almost like a homecoming of sorts," Deal said of the festival. "I know I'll see people at the festival who I won't get to see any other time of the year."
Others may think of high school sports when the think of the village. After all, the Barnesville Shamrocks football team generally draws a large crowd to Shamrock Stadium in the fall, particularly when the hometown boys tangle with the Shadyside Tigers, the Union Local Jets or the Monroe Central Seminoles.
With the small town charm, the growing economy, the Pumpkin Festival and high school sports, Bischof and Deal said Barnesville is a community of friendly people who do their best to support one another.
"Our greatest resource is our people," Bischof added.