Shared from the 3/15/2019 The Columbus Dispatch eEdition

Olentangy Trail extensions may never meet up


Elizabeth Najjar of Worthington walks her daughters Vera, 4, and Sophia, 6, from the northern end of the Olentangy Trail at Worthington Hills Park through construction at the Olentangy Valley Center to get back to their car. Columbus is extending the trail north toward Delaware County this summer.



Metro Parks plans to begin work this year on a mile-long section of the Olentangy Trail in Delaware County.

The Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks plans to extend the trail in Franklin County this year along the Olentangy River to Clubview Boulevard South. But there are no current plans to connect the two, which might include a controversial route through the hamlet of Mount Air.

The Metro Parks board on Tuesday approved a $202,000 contract with Korda/Nemeth Engineering of Columbus for design work that might include a new bridge over the Olentangy River. The entire project is expected to cost about $1.5 million, said Tim Moloney, Metro Parks executive director.

The board also voted to acquire 101 acres in Pleasant Township to add to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. The land, which is being donated by the Nature Conservancy, abuts the park. Metro Parks is spending $10,000 for an appraisal, title work and other costs.

The Olentangy Trail now ends at Worthington Hills Park north of Interstate 270. The plan is to eventually extend the trail north along Olentangy River Road into Mount Air and then into Delaware County, connecting the River Bluff area of Highbanks Metro Park to the Big Meadows area of the park on the east side of the river. Most of the new trail will be along Olentangy River Road west of the river and through the Delaware County sewer treatment plant property.

“It’s a challenging site,” Moloney said. But the new trail will give visitors a look at the Olentangy River and the 50- to-75-foot cliffs there. He said officials also have to decide whether to build a bridge across the Olentangy or dismantle and move the old Orange Road bridge, an iron structure that Delaware County still owns.

The Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks expects to begin work to extend its section of the trail in June, with completion by late fall at a cost of $475,000.

But Moloney said there are no plans yet to connect the two sections. Four years ago, Metro Parks came up with three possible routes, including one through Mount Air.

But right-of-way and other issues are complicating the project. “There’s no clear way to get there,” said Steve Studenmund, Metro Parks’ strategic planning and land acquisition manager.

Mount Air resident Robert Knepper has long opposed the proposed route through his neighborhood and said he’d rather see the trail go along the east side of the river.

Knepper said there’s no space for the trail along Olentangy River Road on the Franklin County side.

“That’s always been an issue,” Knepper said. “Again, they’ve talked about following the road before. The houses are very close to the road.” @MarkFerenchik

See this article in the e-Edition Here