By Rick Palsgrove
“We are hoping the connector trail construction will by completed by this summer,” said Mindi McConnell, Walnut Woods park manager. “We were hoping to get the paving completed last fall, but cold weather set in and it is too wet to start at this time, so we are waiting on warmer weather. We also need to construct a 25-foot boardwalk within the connector trail and complete the trail under Lithopolis Road.”
There will be seven miles of paved trail in the park once the connector trail is in place. Currently, two miles of multi-use trail in the 90-acre Buckeye Area, located at 6716 Lithopolis Road, and 2.5 miles of trail in the 248-acre Tall Pines Area, located at 6833 Richardson Road, are completed. The 2.5 mile connector trail that remains to be constructed passes through the 481-acre central section of the park, located between Lithopolis and Richardson roads.
Metro Parks Strategic Planner Steve Studenmund said the trail in the central section will connect to the Tall Pines Area at road level at Richardson Road and to the Buckeye Area under the Walnut Creek bridge on Lithopolis Road.
McConnell said the multi-use trails will enable visitors to get a close up view of nature and wildlife in the 1,033-acre park, which features rolling terrain, woodlands, meadows and wetlands.
“Some of the natural areas to be seen along the multi-use trails are the wetlands and vernal pools in the Tall Pines Area and the trail will parallel Walnut Creek at times,” said McConnell. “People can also see the variety of trees (including include crabapple, maple, ash and serviceberry) that are planted in rows from the former nursery that was once on the site.”
Long range plans are to eventually connect the Walnut Woods’ multi-use trail system to Groveport’s Heritage Park and the Groveport Recreation Center, but McConnell said there are “no near plans” to make these additional connections.
“We would need to acquire more land to connect to Groveport’s Heritage Park as there is a gap along the creek,” said McConnell.
Besides the multi-use trail system, McConnell said Walnut Woods offers other features for visitors. The Buckeye Area includes: a 3-acre dog park for large dogs (more than 20 pounds) and a 1-acre dog park for smaller dogs; a play area for kids among small maple trees; a shelterhouse that can seat 50 people; a picnic area; an observation mound; and restrooms. The Tall Pines Area includes a picnic area.
She said more park features will be developed.
“We installed a fence separating the large dog park area from the dog pond,” said McConnell. “It will have a separate entrance gate to the pond if you choose to let your dogs swim. We will also be installing dog agility courses in both the large and small dog parks sometime this summer. It will include, natural stepping stones, tunnel, hoops to jump through, station to jump over a pole and weave posts (for the large dog park only). This concludes the development that will happen in the near future.”
Studenmund previously stated development of the central portion of the park was delayed due to cuts in state local government funding. He said, at this point, the only thing planned for development in the central section of the park is the multi-use connector trail.
Overall, according to Studenmund, it cost $2 million to develop the Buckeye Area; $300,000 to develop the Tall Pines Area; and $400,000 to install the trail in the central section.
“The money will be coming out of the general fund. We are using both the 2013 and 2014 capital improvement budget,” said McConnell.
Walnut Woods is the fifth Metro Park in the Groveport, Canal Winchester, and Madison Township area. Others are: Three Creeks Metro Park, 1,156 acres; Chestnut Ridge Metro Park, 486 acres; Pickerington Ponds Metro Park, 1,261 acres; and Slate Run Metro Park, 1,714 acres.