Secret's out: Bay Village one of ten best for families
Stacey and Phil Nye are third-generation Bay Villagers. They were sweethearts at Bay High. Their three sons – Kevin, Jeff and P.J. – also attended the Bay Village schools from kindergarten through graduation, and they had many of the same teachers who taught their parents. The boys grew up biking to both grandparents’ homes, to the parks, the beaches, the local stores and to watch parades and community music concerts.
Family Circle magazine's August issue features the Nye family as illustrative to what makes Bay Village one of its Ten Best Towns for Families this year. The magazine cites outstanding schools, affordable housing, plenty of green space and a giving spirit as reasons for devoting the first page of its cover story to the only Ohio town to make its top ten.
A cloak of strict secrecy was maintained while magazine staff members, compiling their list, conducted deep research and exploration of some 1,300 communities across the country. One of the important contacts for information about Bay Village was its mayor, Deborah Sutherland.
“We were actually considered for the 2011 list,” said Sutherland. “But we only made the top 20. I understand it is unusual for a community to be considered a second time, so when we learned we were up for it in 2012, we were pretty optimistic.”
Sutherland provided Family Circle with facts, figures and other Bay Village contacts. She also made sure to highlight the generous and compassionate nature of her close-knit community. "We have wonderful schools, city management, civic organizations and churches, but besides that excellent institutional infrastructure, we are a small community where we look out for one another. We care for one another. People do great things here that benefit everyone."
Reporters and fact-checkers from Family Circle contacted the school district as well as resident Tara Wendell of the Westlake | Bay Village Observer, Bay Bike and Skate Park founder Lawrence Kuh, and several other individuals. Wendell suggested they also talk with Bay Village resident Michael Heaton of the Plain Dealer.
“As I was describing Bay Village [to the reporter], it didn’t seem believable even to me,” Heaton said about his idyllic home town. He was interviewed in 2011. “I emphasized the proximity to the lake, and the ‘walkability’ to everything. I compared it to Mayberry, but with a liquor store.”
Bay Village did not make the list that year, but in 2012, Family Circle came back to try once more. This time, Mayor Sutherland suggested reporters talk with Nancy Heaton, director of BAYarts. Family Circle wound up using BAYarts as an example of the town’s commitment to community service, culture and involvement.
“I told my husband, Michael, about the interview and he remembered talking with the same reporter a year prior,” she said. “They talked to a number of people, and it’s hard to keep a secret in this town! I’m just amazed.”
Nancy Heaton said that she related how BAYarts is a hub of activity for Bay Village and surrounding communities. “People can enjoy themselves on our campus even if they’re not taking art classes. They can visit our gallery and our coffee shop, and just hang out. I think BAYarts is one of the reasons Bay Village was selected. We have very strong support. We have a very successful fundraising event, Moondance, which raises $70-80,000 each year. Our volunteers and our donors make this all work. BAYArts is really an asset to the community.”
The Nyes told Family Circle that they have plenty of company in growing up in Bay Village, going off to college and career, and coming back to their hometown. Phil Nye estimates, based on what he’s seen and who he knows, that as many as one-quarter of any Bay High graduating class can be expected to return to Bay Village to raise a family. This homing instinct of Bay Village natives seemed to strike a cord with Family Circle as they conducted not just one, but two conference calls with the Nye family while two of the sons were residing at college. They learned that all five Nyes had the same kindergarten teacher, and that it is hard for youngsters to be anonymous in a town where everyone knows your parents and extended family.
“When Kevin walked into Mr. Scott’s class as a freshman, he was called to the front of the room on the first day,” said Phil of his oldest son, who shared the favorite teacher with his dad. “Mr. Scott asked Kevin if his dad was Phil, and if his uncles were Kurt, Mark and Sean. Then he gave Kevin a hug in front of everyone.”
Kevin Nye, who has just graduated from Ohio University, said unlike many of his friends who don’t want to move back to their hometowns, he could definitely see himself moving back to Bay Village to raise his own family.
Another Bay High graduate is Mayor Sutherland herself, as is her husband Bob. Mayor Sutherland, a former Bay High Rockette, says she believes she’s watching a resurgence in the community.
“As empty nesters downsize and move on, we are seeing young families move here in greater numbers,” she said. “New people bring fresh energy and new ideas. Our housing stock is diverse; there's something here for everyone.”
Bay Village is a unique town that’s five square miles, ninety-six percent residential, and it hugs the shore of Lake Erie. Sidewalks line every single street, and traffic is minimal other than Lake Road. It is the perfect environment for youngsters to explore and for others to leave the car at home and walk or bike to the beach, the park or the grocery store.
Sutherland notes that the recent Family Circle honor comes right on the heels of Bay Village being named the Top Suburb in Cleveland Magazine’s Rating the Suburbs 2012 issue. “There's this kind of compelling, very positive karma right now that's making Bay Village just a really cool place to settle into, to put down roots and to grow a family."
Other towns named to this year’s Family Circle Ten Best Towns for Families list are: Lake Oswego, Ore.; Vail, Ariz.; Fishers, Ind.; Ballwin, Mo.; Louisville, Colo.; Longmeadow, Mass.; Fort Mill, S.C.; Zachary, La.; and Oak Park, Ill. Family Circle is on area newsstands.
Public Information Officer for the Bay Village City School District