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Our goal is to create the largest inter-connected park system in the country.

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The Team
Dr. Amy Acton headshot
Dr. Amy Acton, MD, MPH
President and CEO
Amy Acton, MD, MPH, is a physician and community leader who has spent over 30 years pursuing her passion for public health and wellness.

Whether as director of the Ohio Department of Health during early days of the COVID pandemic or as vice president of Human:Kind at the Columbus Foundation, Acton has worked to create community conditions that encourage people to flourish toward their full potential.

Acton now carries her unique ability to inspire people to live their best lives as director of a new nonprofit being created to champion RAPID 5, a movement dedicated to connecting central Ohioans to nature and one another through the region’s five major waterways and the parks and trails along them.

Acton’s widely acclaimed leadership and inspiring guidance was seen in daily news conferences as COVID exploded in the spring of 2020, earning her a Profile in COVID Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in 2021. In 2022 she was named Woman of the Year for Ohio by USA Today for the significant impact she has had.

A native of Youngstown in northeast Ohio, Acton received her master’s degree in public health from Ohio State University and her medical degree from Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine. She completed internships in pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and residency in preventive medicine at OSU.

Acton has taught in the OSU College of Medicine and Public Health and the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She previously directed Project L.O.V.E. in Columbus, an initiative of local hospitals to Love Our Kids, Vaccinate Early. She also worked for the Columbus Foundation as a community research and grants management officer.

Under her leadership as  state health director, Ohio created the first ODH deputy director position focused on mobilizing federal and state resources to promote health equity, inclusion and opportunity for all Ohioans.

Acton lives in Bexley with her husband, Eric, who has coached and taught in Bexley City Schools since 1987. 
Keith Meyers Headshot
Keith Myers
Board Chair
Keith Myers is an acclaimed urban planner and landscape architect who is retiring June 30 as vice president of planning, architecture and real estate from the Ohio State University following a 30-year career in private practice and 10 years at the University. He is the past chair of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Columbus and is credited with helping to create the vision for RAPID 5. RAPID 5 is a movement to connect people of central Ohio with nature and one another across five major waterways and adjacent parks and trails.

Among Myers’ signature accomplishments are the restoration of Mirror Lake at OSU to its more natural state, design of the Scioto Mile and Scioto Greenways in Downtown Columbus and master planning of the Nationwide Arena District. His leadership at Ohio State also includes development of its Innovation District and University Square at intersection of 15th Avenue and High Street in Columbus.

Myers received a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from OSU and has served its Knowlton School of Architecture as an adjunct faculty member. He founded the landscape architecture and urban planning firm MKSK in 1984 and helped grow it into the largest such firm in the Midwest.

Myers is a fellow in the American Society of Landscape Architects. His community leadership has included work on the Neighborhood Design Center, Brewery District Commission, and numerous other boards and commissions. He served as planning consultant to New Albany for more than two decades as it grew from a sleepy rural village to a national model for a health-focused suburban lifestyle.

As a governance committee member at ULI, Myers has been involved in a collaboration with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) to predict central Ohio will attract one million new residents by 2050.

As an outgrowth of that work, Myers helped ULI and MORPC to recognize an urgency to enliven the five major north-south waterways distributed evenly across Franklin County in imaginative ways to use the rivers and creeks and surrounding parks and trials to connect central Ohioans to nature and each other to the benefit of all.

Myers was instrumental in engaging Neighborhood Design Center and five local design firms in the midst of the COVID pandemic to each study one of the natural corridors, gather ideas for improvements from their communities and residents and present enhancement plans in July 2021 to further develop the vision of RAPID 5, which stands for Rivers and Parks Imagination Design.

The firms and the water courses they focused on are: REALM Collaborative and Big Darby Creek, NBBJ and the Scioto River, MKSK and the Olentangy River, AECOM and Alum Creek, and EDGE and Big Walnut Creek.
Jennifer Peterson
Chief Operating Officer
Jennifer Peterson is an accomplished business executive who has helped build brands and manage operations for some of Columbus' most successful companies while also sharing her strategic marketing leadership with a variety of nonprofits and community organizations.

As chief operating officer of RAPID 5, Peterson brings a lifelong passion for the outdoors and a devotion to community engagement to the role of helping Dr. Amy Acton lead the organization on its quest to bring people closer to nature and one another by expanding access to central Ohio's bounty of five major waterways.

In seven years with Steiner + Associates as chief executive at Easton, Peterson guided the award-winning, mixed-use fashion lifestyle center through innovative expansion and groundbreaking strategies while navigating the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peterson also led efforts of the Easton Community Foundation, which pivoted during the pandemic quarantine to organize and deliver thousands of donated meals to frontline hospital workers and first responders.

Her previous professional experience includes 18 years in various executive retail positions, where she led brand and marketing initiatives for C.O. Bigelow, Victoria's Secret and its PINK brand, Bath & Body Works and Lane Bryant. Peterson also helped launch fashion handbag and accessories startup Jewell LLC in addition to working on iconic brands like Wendy's, Sears and the NutraSweet Co. during her tenure in advertising.

Peterson is on the board of ALVIS, Inc., serves as vice chair of Leadership Columbus, development co-chair of the Center for Healthy Families and is on the Community Justice Team as a member of First Community Church. She was on the City of Columbus Commission on Black Girls, is a member of Urban Land Institute Columbus and its Women's Leadership Initiative and served for many years as a Junior League of Columbus board member.

Among many personal and professional honors, Peterson has been recognized as a YWCA Columbus Women of Achievement award recipient in 2021, Women WELDing the Way calendar honoree in 2020, and a GlobeSt Women of Influence award winner as a corporate real estate executive in 2022.

Jennifer has been married to her husband Chris for 23 years and they have three children, a dog and two cats.
Melissa Sever
Chief of Staff
Melissa Sever has dedicated her entire career to public health, and that focus continues in her role as chief of staff for RAPID 5.

From her early days as a health educator through senior administrative positions in state, municipal, academic and corporate positions, Sever has been recognized by colleagues for her ability to build strong, collaborative relationships that move teams to success.

Sever served as senior program manager at The Ohio State University College of Public Health followed by a role at the Ohio Department of Health as chief for Public Health Systems & Innovation.

Sever has also worked in senior administrative positions for Columbus Public Health, first as director of Planning & Quality Improvement and later as director of Organizational Development & Culture. She has also directed workforce development for Pharmacy Systems Inc. and worked as program director for Operation Hope & Health.

Her professional affiliations include involvement with Big Cities Health Coalition, Senior Deputy Group; the Governing Council of the Ohio Public Health Association, and the Workforce Development Workgroup of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

“Nature and the outdoors were at the center of how I grew up” on a farm in rural northwest Ohio, Sever said. She has lived in central Ohio since 1996. Now in Worthington, Sever and her husband have two daughters. 
Jon Tolbert
Creative Director
Jon Tolbert, creative director for RAPID 5, is an innovative storyteller who has won acclaim for using digital media to create content that establishes, grows and maintains brands for professional clients and community organizations.

Prior to joining RAPID 5, Tolbert was director of creative marketing for Pelotonia, where he conducted marketing campaigns for Pelotonia Ride Weekend and other initiatives of the nonprofit dedicated to eliminating cancer.

Earlier Tolbert was director of digital marketing for the City of Columbus, a position where he was recognized for his creative TikTok content. His professional accolades include being named a Sprout Social Top 15 Government Communication Leader and a Pixlee Pro Marketing Leader. 

Tolbert has worked on projects for the Columbus Fashion Alliance, Brewdog and Land Grant breweries, The Ohio State University Alumni Association, My Brother’s Keeper, Airstream, Stonewall Columbus, African American Wellness Walk, Smart Columbus and Studio Thoreau.

A central Ohio native and Leadership Columbus alumni, Tolbert is on the board of Franklinton Cycle Works, served as communication chair for the Government Social Media Council northeast region and was on the board of the Central Ohio Public Information Network. 

“One of the first things I want to do is get people to really believe and redefine the regional overall quality of life by leveraging our natural landscape.” Tolbert said. “RAPID 5 is all about connecting us to nature and each other, but we need to provide some opportunities for that to happen.”

Tolbert lives in Westerville with his wife and their young son and daughter.
FAQ

What is RAPID 5?

RAPID 5 is an evolving vision for how central Ohio can grow by connecting us with nature and one another like never before. It is a resource for engaging and empowering communities and individuals to help realize the vision of a future connected with nature.

Who is behind RAPID 5?

The vision started with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Columbus and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) inviting Neighborhood Design Center and five local design firms to gather community input and imagine possibilities for making the region’s unique natural assets a centerpiece for central Ohio’s growth and wellbeing. The five design firms are REALM Collaborative, NBBJ, MKSK, AECOM and EDGE.

Thank you to the 2021 RAPID 5 Project Management Committee:

  • Steve Bollinger
  • Kerstin Carr
  • Alicia Gaston
  • Tatiana Parfenova
  • Erin Prosser
  • Tim Moloney
  • William Murdock
  • Keith Myers, Chair
  • Michael Simpson
  • Mark Wagenbrenner

Why is RAPID 5 important?

As central Ohio is on track to become a region of 3 million people by 2050, there is a unique and urgent opportunity to ensure that growth includes plans to preserve and expand people’s access to nature. Connecting people with nature and one another benefits their wellbeing, promotes social equity, spurs environmental stewardship, increases mobility and enhances economic vitality.

What is the meaning of the name RAPID 5?

RAPID 5 is an acronym for Rivers and Parks Imagination Design. The “5” refers to the five major waterways running north-south and equally distributed through Franklin County – Big Darby Creek, Scioto River, Olentangy River, Alum Creek, Big Walnut Creek.

When and how did the vision for RAPID 5 come about?

Over the past decade ULI Columbus and MORPC have convened conversations regarding how and where the region grows with efforts like insight2050 and insight2050 Corridor Concepts. Both organizations were also separately focused on connections between natural resources and wellbeing – ULI through the Building Healthy Places initiative begun in 2013 and MORPC with its 2015 Central Ohio Greenways plan.

RAPID 5 is not a standalone initiative, but one of several major regional initiatives.  The region is at the cusp of transformation with efforts like LinkUs, Central Ohio Greenways, Regional Housing Strategy, and many more.  Together these efforts will be transformative to the region.

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