Improvements planned at Glenwood Park

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

The city of Columbus continues to make improvements at a popular westside destination that is often referred to as ‘the gateway to the Hilltop community.’

Last year, the city’s recreation and parks department formalized plans with the local consulting, engineering, and construction firm Resource International Inc. to revitalize specific areas of Glenwood Park. Although the community hub on Fairmont Avenue encompasses more than 16 acres of land, the primary objective of this project was to make enhancements to its 8.7 acres of wooded terrain.

City officials said they were told by the community that improvements to this area were of the utmost importance.

“The department wanted to partner with the community to revitalize and restore the forest at Glenwood Park to make it accessible and safe to park users,” said communications and marketing manager Stephanie Garling. “Half of the park was under-utilized because eight acres of forest lacked formalized trails, wayfinding signage and good visibility.”

She said in addition to improving the safety for the park users, the project will also restore the area back to health.

“This restoration is a chance to enhance a forested wetland, improve biodiversity in the park, remove invasive shrubs like honeysuckle and establish a native understory.”

Project managers said the first phase in this multi-phased project is mostly complete. One of the first things the team did was cut back on the density of the forest, making the area more visible to pedestrians and motorists along West Broad Street.

According to Michelle Eckels, the vice-president of environmental services at Resource International Inc. the forest area space is overgrown with invasive species, filled with dead trees, and used as a homeless camp because it was so dense with extra foliage.

“The primary goal (of phase one) was the clearing of this area,” she said during a project update at the Greater Hilltop Area Commission meeting in October. “We wanted to be able to see across the whole vegetative area, so you could see across Broad Street and so that they could see you across that wooded area.”

She said the thinning out of the density eliminated much of the “unwanted activities” that were present in the park prior to this project.

The second phase, or the design phase, is currently underway and is approximately 75 percent complete. This portion of the project focused on what the community said they would like to see in the park, such as benches, wayfinding signage, restoration of the steps to the wetland area, and enhanced wildlife biodiversity.

According to Eckels, the naturally existing wetland, or vernal pool, will not be touched during this process. Although some residents in attendance at the meeting expressed concern about its ability to attract mosquitoes, she said it was not the project’s objective to be rid of the insects completely.

“Hopefully some of the clearing (of the overgrown brush) has and will help…but that is not something this project has set out to eliminate,” she said.

What the project will do is create a native wildlife habitat that will attract bees and butterflies, especially Monarchs.

Eckels said the diversity of the vegetation in the area is “not high” so this phase will enhance the wetland to bring more pollinators into the area.

The second phase will also do more to bring humans to the area by placing benches near the wetland, adding educational signage, creating visible, but natural, walking trails, and constructing a new staircase for easier access to the area.

The commission asked the project’s team leads whether these steps would be accessible for those with physical limitations. They said they would not be as the amount of grading that would have to be done was too excessive for the wooded area.

Another feature in the second phase was the prioritization of pedestrian safety in the area. The project team said they have seen evidence of cars, trucks, motorbikes and ATVs accessing the lower terrain, which is strictly prohibited.

Eckels herself was almost run over by a vehicle when preparing to take a stroll down to the natural walking path.

To keep vehicular traffic out of the pedestrian-only area, there will be additional mounding features made to the upper, middle and lower terrace, fencing around the path entrance and removable bollards. All measures will be done in such a way as to not restrict access for safety vehicles or park maintenance equipment.

The first and second phase of the project cost approximately $23,000 and $92,000, respectively. Garling said the city department is still finalizing the budget for the third phase which would see the construction of the pollinator garden, the natural walking trails, the benches at the vernal pool, and the staircase. Additional invasive species and felled trees would also be removed during this phase.

The anticipated completion for the Glenwood Park Natural Area restoration and revitalization project is late 2023.

 

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