Glen Echo Ravine had been around for a long time before being officially recognized in 1912 with the dedication of the park bearing its name.

Glen Echo Ravine had been around for a long time before being officially recognized in 1912 with the dedication of the park bearing its name.

Nevertheless, a family-oriented celebration is being planned for July 14 to mark the 100th birthday of the ravine.

Mike McLaughlin of the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum announced some of the details for the event during a program held last week titled "Glen Echo Ravine: Past, Present and Future."

Face painting, a magic show and children's games are being planned for the July 14 event, according to McLaughlin. For adults, the unveiling of new interpretive signs is scheduled, as will be appearances by Councilman Zachary M. Klein and Alan McKnight, director of the Recreation and Parks Department.

If sufficient funding can be found - and McLaughlin said he intends to try to convince his board to embark upon a money-raising campaign for the celebration - a birthday tree will be planted during the event.

The "past" part of last week's presentation in the Northwood High Building was handled by Doreen Uhas-Sauer and Stuart J. Koblentz, co-authors of "The Ohio State University Neighborhood," which is part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America Series.

During the Civil War, the two noted, one of two Union Army camps located within the ravine was commanded by Gen. Lew Wallace, who went on to considerably more fame as the author of "Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ." The novel, published in 1880, has been made into a film four times, most notably the 1959 version with Charlton Heston that won a then-record 11 Oscars.

The 6,000 soldiers at Camp Thomas, the one commanded by Wallace, proved to be an "economic engine" in terms of business development along the west side of North High Street, according to Uhas-Sauer, president of the Columbus Landmarks Foundation.

In a bit of irony, Uhas-Sauer noted that an early settler in the ravine used to hunt turkeys on the site of what is now a Turkey Hill convenience store.

The discovery in 1869 of an especially useful type of clay, only found elsewhere in Middlesex, England, within Glen Echo Ravine and along Slate Run helped spur development of North Columbus, which was started in 1842 at the midpoint between downtown and Worthington, Uhas-Sauer said. The Columbus Sewer Tile Co. was founded in March of 1869 by eight businessmen who raised an astonishing, for the time, $100,000 in a very short period to launch the enterprise, she said.

The "present" of the ravine was the topic for Laura Shinn, director of physical planning and real estate at Ohio State University and past chairwoman of the Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed. Formed in 1997, the nonprofit organization is "dedicated to keeping the Olentangy River and its tributaries clean and safe for all to enjoy, through public education, volunteer activities, and coordination with local decision makers," according to its website.

"It's very much a hidden gem in a dense urban setting," Shinn told the 20 or so people gathered for the meeting.

It is, however, a "gem" that has faced problems and continues to do so as a result of the encroachment of people and development, according to the FLOW representative.

In recent years, a variety of community groups have been working in cooperation with one another to remove invasive species from within the ravine and replace them with native plants, according to Shinn. The city of Columbus took a giant step toward helping out the ravine with a sewer overhaul project in 2009 that replaced pipes that had been leaking raw sewage in some areas, she added.

Impervious surfaces, such as the roofs of homes, driveways and parking lots, contribute to frequent urban flooding and erosion within Glen Echo Ravine, Shinn said. To reduce that, residents within the watershed can use rain barrels, install rain gardens, put in vegetated swales or even simply permeable pavers, she said.

The ravine's future was the topic of McLaughlin, former District 1 CAC representative, and Peter Kovarik, professor of biology at Columbus State Community College as well as a member of the urban arboretum's steering committee.

The goal of reforesting ravines in the Clintonville area, according to McLaughlin, is to make the arboretum a "destination area" that would include a bird sanctuary and provide examples of "cutting-edge restoration techniques."

About 18 months old, the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum initially was funded by a grant obtained by FLOW and United Crestview Area Neighbors from the Joseph A. Jeffrey Endowment Fund at the Columbus Foundation, McLaughlin said. More recently, the arboretum received a $4,500 grant from the Chase 200Columbus program, which will help pay for a bird mural in a bridge underpass in the ravine, the 100th birthday party and the sale at reduced prices of native plants to the ravine's neighbors, he said.

The Chase 200Columbus grant application had been for $7,500, which is why fundraising might be needed to purchase and plant the commemorative tree on July 14, according to McLaughlin.

Kovarik spoke of one day having the arboretum connect all of the separate sections of the Glen Echo Ravine.

"It would be earth-shattering," he said. "It would just be a beautiful entryway into Clintonville. We definitely want this to happen.

"We have all the resources here. We can make it happen here if we really want to."