Canal Winchester residents will have an opportunity to view plans and provide feedback about Walnut Woods Metro Park on July 21.

Canal Winchester residents will have an opportunity to view plans and provide feedback about Walnut Woods Metro Park on July 21.

The as-yet unopened park is located in Madison Township between Groveport and Canal Winchester, the site of the former Eastside Nursery.

Metro Parks bought 482 acres from nursery officials for $4-million in December 2008. In May, the system bought a 90-acre parcel for $750,000 and a 56-acre parcel for $125,000, according to Metro Parks strategic planner Steve Studenmund.

Metro Parks will recoup 75 percent of the cost of the two parcels through a grant from the Clean Ohio Fund.

The Canal Winchester open house is one of two that Metro Parks will host this month about Walnut Woods. The first is slated for July 15 at the Groveport Recreation Center, 7370 Groveport Road. The July 21 event will be held at the Canal Winchester Community Center, 22 S. Trine St. Both open houses will be held from 4 to 8 p.m.

Walnut Woods is projected to open sometime in 2012, according to Metro Parks officials.

Studenmund said the parks system started accumulating property in 2008 for Walnut Woods, which now encompasses 628 acres.

"It was part of our 2009 levy plan," he said. "This is one of those three parks promised to the voters of Franklin County."

Metro Parks also promised a new park in Grove City along the Scioto River and a park in Plain Township in the northeastern part of Franklin County, Studenmund said.

At the public meetings, Metro Parks officials will provide some examples of what Walnut Woods might look like and where trails and access points could be located, Studenmund said. The main goal of the open houses is to get input from the community and determine whether Metro Parks has addressed all the needs, he said.

"We want folks to comment and tell us what they like about this plan," he said.

Metro Parks received $3-million in federal stimulus money for wetlands restoration at Walnut Woods, which has been continuing since February, according to Studenmund. He said trail development could begin this fall.

Walnut Creek is a huge part of development plans for the new park, he said. The federal funds will enable the Metro Parks to improve water quality in the stream corridor, Studenmund said. The creek runs alongside the northern sector of the park near Groveport.

Development of the park will take place over the next two years with more trail development in 2010 and facility development in 2011, Studenmund said.

"Parks are never finished," he said. "It's a very dynamic process."

Park visitors will have access to a variety of passive recreation activities, including hiking and bird-watching. There will be overlooks and boardwalks to take advantage of the wetlands, he said.

Since May, an advisory committee of citizens, community leaders, elected officials and park staff members has been brainstorming ideas for Walnut Woods.

Canal Winchester resident Brent Foley has been volunteering on the committee for the past six weeks. A partner with Triad Architects, he has done professional work for Metro Parks.

He said Walnut Woods will help preserve the character of Canal Winchester and Groveport, especially with the commercial and residential development rapidly occurring in the area.

"We need to make sure that we are planning for other needs," Foley said. "I am excited to have another park so close to me because I'm an outdoor enthusiast."

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com