By Linda Dillman
The gates to McGill Park in Canal Winchester officially swung open on July 27 with a ribbon cutting ceremony under a canopy of gray skies.
However, a light drizzle did not dampen the spirits of city officials, workers, residents and a member of the McGill family who welcomed the completion of the first phase of the multi-million dollar and multi-year long McGill Park on the city’s southern edge near Walnut Creek at 6725 Lithopolis-Winchester Road.
“I think public spaces like this are very important to Canal Winchester because we are such a young, active, and growing community,” said Brad McGill. “Some of the reasons why my family chose to live in Canal Winchester were the activities and beautiful spaces that the community offers in a very close proximity to Columbus. McGill Park will add to the several great parks in the area and will draw outsiders into the community to experience the beauty that it’s residents already know about.”
Mayor Mike Ebert said the city’s concept for the park began in 2009, with Canal Winchester City Council approval to start the purchase process a year later. The initial asking price was $1.25 million for the nearly 87-acre site. According to Ebert, a contract was drafted, but the property was tied up in an estate at the time.
Ebert eventually lost contact with the family and the years passed by. However, the mayor’s patience was eventually rewarded with a lower asking price.
In 2015, the property went back on the market and the city reached an agreement a year and a half later to purchase the site through owner financing from Kathleen McGill for $774,495 with quarterly payments spread out over a 10-year period.
While the site is bordered by a housing development, part of the property lies within the floodplain—deeming it unsuitable for development, but appropriate for a natural resource like a park.
About McGill Park
In spring 2021, where cornfields once waved under the heat of summer skies, earth moving equipment began construction of four full-size soccer fields and an automated sprinkling system on the park’s southeast side. The fields need time to establish the turf and will be ready for play in 2023.
Phase I also includes paved parking lots, an entry drive, playground, walking trails, shelter house, and a pair of bridges in a scenic ravine. The trail connector project is a 10-foot-wide asphalt path starting across from the covered bridge.
It travels along Washington Street and then along Walnut Creek to a terminus near the McGill farmhouse. The trail includes two bridges—a 66-foot weathering steel bridge about 18 feet above the creek spanning a gorge and a 27-foot weathering steel bridge spanning a ravine.
The McGill homestead is still located on the property and, while there are no plans for its use at this point in the project, the house will remain on site. Brad McGill believes his grandparents purchased the property in the 1950s or 1960s.
“I think that my parents only lived on the property from 1970 to 1973, at which time my older sister was born,”said McGill. “My parents purchased a farm and moved to Lancaster late in 1973 after I was born. My grandfather gave the property to my Aunt Kathy (a veterinarian) who lived there for many years.”
McGill, who still lives in Canal Winchester, said the property was always a fun place to visit as a child. He remembers having sleepovers in his aunt’s house with his siblings and cousins.
“My aunt is an animal lover and raised Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies on the property,” said Brad. “She trained some of the dogs to pull sleds and I have fond wintertime memories of riding around on toboggans being pulled by her dogs on the property. My family always liked to hike along the creek and there was a very large white oak tree that we were always in amazement of. It became famous in the family for a picture that we took of the whole family wrapped around it holding hands.”
When the tree died, McGill’s parents hung a large slice of it in their home. He said it always catches the eye of visitors who are amazed at its size and large number of years of rings.
“As a resident of Canal Winchester, it’s a great feeling to see the old farm turned into a fantastic park for the community,” said McGill. “The park is always a discussion by my family that they are very proud of. As long-time farmers, they can think of no better use for the land that they enjoyed and used for so long.”