Metro Parks continues its commitment to elevate park experiences for visitors with some bold projects in 2021

TATIANA PARFENOVA
Landscape Architect

Visitors can stand on a deck overlooking this 20-foot waterfall or climb down a flight of limestone steps and wade in the water when Quarry Trails opens later this year. Photo/Steve Studenmund

Metro Parks capital improvements projects (CIP) for 2021 are ambitious and reflect our goal to always provide an exceptional experience for the 14 million annual visitors who enjoy nature and the outdoors. We have allocated $14 million to create new amenities and enhance existing recreational opportunities at our 20 parks and along our extensive trail network. Below are a few of the key CIP projects.

Construction continues at a rapid pace to transform a large former quarry site along the Scioto River into a dynamic and adventure-packed Metro Park, unlike any other in the region. We anticipate opening a portion of the 180-acre Quarry Tails Metro Park later this year. Quarry Trails is a public-private partnership featuring scenic parkland surrounded by mixed-use development. Just five miles from downtown Columbus, the site includes a dramatic waterfall, towering 100-foot cliffs, lakes, streams and some steep topography. These site elements call for a different approach in planning.

The single-track mountain bike trail at Quarry Trails Metro Park is under construction and will feature jumps, ramps, obstacles and some steep climbs. Photo/Tatiana Parfenova

Hiking, biking, floating the lakes, exploring the natural features and other traditional activities associated with the park system will be offered along with other more adventurous challenges. We are bringing in a variety of specialty activities which would not be possible anywhere else. Currently, we are building parking areas, kayak channels that will connect different quarry lakes and a challenging single-track mountain bike course. Visitors will also have plenty of opportunities for walking, sightseeing, picnicking and other passive recreational activities.

Planning is underway for the Treehouse Nature Center at Blacklick Woods Metro Park.  Artist rendering/VAA Architects

Aptly named, the Treehouse, a new nature center is in the development stages at Blacklick Woods Metro Park. We are working with Van Auken Akins Architects on the Treehouse that will celebrate the wet woods of Blacklick.

Visitors will take a canopy walk up in the trees and get a different vantage point of the familiar and loved Blacklick Woods Metro Park. Interpretive displays will tell the stories of the natural processes around and share our park district’s history. The Fort, a special place for our youngest visitors, will feature an interactive two-story educational play volume display for kids to explore and encounter animals and plants of Blacklick Woods in a fun setting.

A group of volunteers from FedEx planted trees at the Burning Lake Area at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park as part of an overall reforestation project. Photo/Leah DiVito

We plan to open a new amenity area at Pickerington Ponds Metro Park this year. You can already see the new park entrance to the Burning Lake area off of Gender Road across from Shannon Road. A 1.5-mile loop multi-use trail will take you through the additional 180 acres of park land with woods, wetlands, kettle lakes and wildflower fields. You can experience a variety of habitats and observe the changes in natural succession through time. Some of the open fields are scheduled for reforestation while others will remain as grasslands and wildflowers. Volunteers have been an integral part of our reforestation efforts at the Burning Lake area and will continue to do so in order to help speed up the natural succession and also to build the community of stewards for the park. A natural play area by the pond will provoke kids to get wet and adventurous while their caregivers could rest in a hammock and watch them play. Some of the fun things to do at the natural play area will include taking a rope ferry across the pond, hopping from log to log and playing with water and sand table.

New restrooms are planned for the lakeside Shelter at Homestead Metro Park among the many upgrades for 2021. Photo/Mark Michaels

Additionally, we will be making improvements at Homestead Metro Park this year. We will update play equipment, solve circulation conflicts and add restrooms to name a few of the planned improvements. Our goal is to further improve the experience of the users at this popular Metro Park.

Another exciting planning project is work at our newly acquired land in southern Franklin County. This property belonged to the YMCA and served as a summer campground for generations of Columbus residents as well as a venue for various festivals and events. Located in a wide floodplain area, the site has direct access to Big Walnut Creek and some wooded areas and a small creek. There are quite a few structures on the site, some of which have lots of history associated with them. We’ll be improving the circulation flow at the site, repairing some of the existing structures and adding new amenities.

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