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Arboretum will grow in more ways than one this year

Leaders hope to expand nature area in size, plant more trees, offer more to do

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The future's so bright for the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum, visitors will appreciate the shade.

Arboretum President Mike McLaughlin said expansion of the current boundaries might be in the offing in 2013, as well as more tree plantings thanks to money received from the city through an Urban Infrastructure Recovery Fund grant.

McLaughlin said he was "delighted" to announce the grant money will help largely with finishing up tree planting in the urban oasis, with 1,000 under-canopy trees to be planted in three rounds during the year ahead.

Planting would take place in the spring and fall of this year and stretch into spring 2014, he said.

Expanding the current borders of the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum -- Weber Road to the north; North High Street to the west; the railroad tracks to the east; and Arcadia Street from North High to Indianola Avenue, then Hudson Street from Indianola to the railroad tracks to the south -- is a distinct possibility for 2013, McLaughlin said in December. He added he hopes the expansion takes place "in all directions," from the Iuka Ravine to the south all the way to the Worthington city limits to the north.

But this would happen only if residents in the areas to be incorporated inside the arboretum are amenable to the idea, McLaughlin said.

The way the arboretum's bylaws are written, expansion into new areas can take place only if existing civic associations agree to it.

"We don't want to force our will on other people; we want to be invited," McLaughlin said.

Arboretum board members also want to be certain residents of any new areas not only agree to the expansion of the boundaries but also are willing to participate and help in maintaining the trees.

McLaughlin said he feels there are "plenty" of civic associations north and south of the current arboretum limits willing to join, and that eventually may lead to additional walking trails being established.

More programming to further the educational aspects of the arboretum also is on tap for 2013. This will include guided arboretum walks by steering committee Vice President Pete Kovarik, an entomologist at Columbus State Community College.

The walks would take place on Saturday mornings in the spring, when the arboretum's trees are in bloom, and in the autumn when the fall colors come out, McLaughlin said.

In April, a "bio-blitz" is planned in the ravine within the arboretum to identify salamanders and other amphibians found in the area.

Also in 2013, McLaughlin said Columbus Department of Public Service personnel will install directional signs, similar to those found along bike paths, throughout the arboretum to help guide people on the two existing walks.

Finally, McLaughlin said members of arboretum partner Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed will hold workshops on composting and rain barrels in the year that lies ahead.

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