XENIA — When he retired from what was then the Greene County Park District, Charles “Ed” Dressler left a trail of success.
Well, actually he left trails.
Many, many, trails.
Because of Dressler’s vision, miles and miles of orphaned railways morphed into what is now the massive paved trail network that links Greene County to the rest of Ohio.
That foresight for the Rails to Trails project and all the other work he completed for the county are being remembered and celebrated as a memorial to Dressler, who died Jan. 9 at age 82.
“He was the champion of the bike paths,” GCPT Director Jon Dobney said in an online post.
Dressler came to Greene County in 1974 as the second county parks and recreation director and first director of the park district, which is now known as Greene County Parks & Trails. During his decades of service, he helped acquire 900 acres of park land, developed more than 1,000 acres, and led the charge for the creation of the trails that have made Xenia the “Bicycle Capital of the Midwest.”
It started in the mid-1980s when the train whistles at Xenia Station stopped blowing and the tracks became unused and overgrown.
“When the railroads stopped running, it was just wasted property,” said Dressler’s daughter, Michele Henson. “He ended up going to Washington with the transportation department.
In a YouTube video produced in 2018, Dressler said the county’s master plan had an entire section on trails and bike paths.
“The county engineer felt that we needed to get families off the roads,” Dressler said. “They knew bicycling was starting to come about.”
So Dressler took the time to go after federal money that was available.
“Nobody was going after it because (the process) was too complicated,” he said in the video. “Nobody wanted to do a 10-year project.”
But Dressler did and he wasn’t going to stop until it was complete.
”Basically the first thing Ed said to me was ‘I want to do this because I intend to make Xenia and Greene County the bicycle hub of the midwest’ and he did,” said long-time friend Mark Garlikov, who worked with Dressler on bike events for the Dayton Cycling Club and the trails. “Everything out of Xenia goes everywhere. It goes all over the place. He was a hell of a guy. He loved the area.”
According to Dressler’s stepdaughter, Talerie Brown, he went through “a huge amount of hoops with government entities.”
“It was a huge undertaking,” she said.
Dressler wasn’t just involved in trails. He volunteered in a lot of organizations, specifically those involved with preserving greenspace and wetlands.
“He was extremely passionate,” Brown said “He loved Greene County. The calls are pouring in about how Ed touched people’s lives.”
Dressler was recognized in 2017 as the Bike Miami Valley Advocate of the Year after being inducted in the Ohio Parks & Recreation Association Hall of Fame year earlier in 2007.
He also served as the grand marshal for the 2018 Xenia Community Festival Parade.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Greene County Community Foundation, Dressler Memorial, 941 West Second Street, Xenia, Ohio 45385, or online at www.greenegiving.org.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.