By Linda Dillman
After a pandemic delay, Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks is moving off the drafting board and onto the grounds of the former Hoover Y Park in turning the site at 1570 Rohr Road into public park land.
A $1.5 million agreement for the park, located in southeastern Franklin County, was approved by the Board of Park Commissioners of Columbus and Franklin County in May 2020.
Steve Studenmund, planning & design manager for Metro Parks, said the planning and design phase was expected to start in 2021, but was delayed due to COVID. Work has since resumed.
“We are looking into acquiring the adjacent quarry to the west,” said Studenmund. “These two parcels combined create a lot of opportunities such as water access, river access, nature trails, multi-use trails, passive recreation and programmed spaces with the existing structures. We are currently constructing additional parking lots and access drives. We are also in the process of improving the Optimist Lodge and Ingram building.”
Studenmund said it will take most of 2023 to upgrade facilities, utilities, parking, trails, and play areas. The park system is tentatively looking at a late 2023 opening, depending on several construction activities.
A giant slide was removed years ago by the YMCA as a safety hazard and a caretaker’s house was demolished this year. However, several buildings and structures still remain, as well as multiple electric plug-in units used by campers during a music jamboree.
“We are evaluating the usefulness and function of all structures to see if they fit into the parks operational plans and to see if they meet current building codes,” said Studenmund, who said there is also a possibility the electrical connections could be used in a similar manner for events.
The park system has yet to pick a name for the former YMCA park and quarry. As for connectivity to other Metro Parks, Studenmund said, given the location, connecting the site by a trail to other Metro Park’s will be very challenging.
“We are excited for the opportunities these sites present to park visitors,” said Studenmund.
The site is bordered by Rohr Road to the south, farmland on the north, Bixby Road to the east and homes and the quarry to the west.
Many people remember the infamous Granddaddy Slide, which started at the top of a rise in the park and took riders on a wild and bumpy ride to the bottom of the hill. A large red barn once owned by a local farmer, known as the Optimist Lodge, served as a rustic event center for the YMCA, which owned the park for 77 years.
The park was also a frequent site for outdoor weddings, reunions, meetings, summer camps, and a yearly haunted hike through the woods and paths surrounding the area.
Musicians Against Childhood Cancer held annual concerts at the park for many years, attracting musicians and campers from across the nation.
The YMCA originally purchased the 60-acre property on Nov. 17, 1947.