Linking communities through waterways and greenways

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Big dreams can be the catalyst for change and a joint venture across Franklin County is fostering dreams on a grand scale.

Rapid Five is a vision linking communities throughout the county via waterways bordering municipalities, including Lockbourne and Obetz, in a way that fosters connections north to south and east to west.

ULI (Urban Land Institute) Columbus and the Mid-Ohio Reginal Planning commission (MORPC) partnered in organizing and sponsoring the creative exploration of Franklin County’s five major waterways—the Big Darby Creek, Scioto River, Olentangy River, Alum Creek, and Big Walnut Creek.

The Big Walnut Creek corridor starts at Hoover Reservoir and travels through Gahanna, Whitehall, Reynoldsburg, the Eastland area, and Obetz Junction, before ending at Lockbourne.

“The vision for Rapid 5 is to connect the communities along the waterway,” said Lockbourne Mayor Christie Ward. “Each community brings a different experience on the Big Walnut which complements each other. It is a great opportunity for communities to collaborate. The canal system is highlighted in Rapid 5 and will help make Lockbourne a destination place.”

Ward said Lockbourne continues to work with Columbus Parks and Recreation and Metro Parks on park improvements. Plans include installation of a pedestrian bridge to connect loops along the Magnolia Trail and relocation of the Lock Meadow Park entrance to the middle of town.

The goal of Rapid 5 is to knot together all five waterways into a single cohesive greenway system in creating greenbelts, incorporating destinations, fostering tourism and connecting communities and districts.

“MORPC contacted us in March to invite Lockbourne to participate in the Rapid 5 project,” said Ward. “We participated in all the planning meetings with the stakeholders in the Big Walnut corridor and the design firm EDGE.”

Improvements suggested for the Lockbourne leg of the project include sidewalk improvements, an enhanced municipal building, a new entrance to Lock Meadow Park, and village gateway development.

New community and retail buildings, along with park amenities such as a community pavilion/performance space, enhanced recreational opportunities, a trail loop and improved access to canal locks are also included in the Rapid 5 project.

“Our goal is to take the vision from Rapid 5 and integrate it with our current parks plan,” said Ward. “A parks committee will be established later this year to look at all the ideas and create a comprehensive park plan with a timetable and course of action by spring 2022.”

ULI Columbus and MORPC embarked on the project to develop a vision for an integrated open space network in Central Ohio that prescribes how to best use natural assets to benefit the economy, manage growth, provide access for recreation, education, and health, as well as preserve natural resources, and environmental health.

On July 21, five design and planning firms shared their visions to connect communities and waterways through the RAPID 5 Project at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum.

“The natural environment must become the foundation of our growth, our transportation network, and our neighborhoods,” said Keith Myers, chair of ULI Columbus and William Murdock, MORPC executive director. “Central Ohio has a once in a lifetime opportunity to rethink its growth and organize it around the incredible waterways that span the community.”

Last January, conversations were held with potential sponsors and partners and, according to ULI Columbus and MORPC, the response was overwhelming. Public input was solicited and more than 650 surveys and over 3,600 interactions were recorded on a community engineering platform. On June 11, the planning firms released their work in creating a vision for the five greenway corridors and on July 21, the report was released to the public.

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