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Groups unite to back Glen Echo trail

Idea for trail to link ravine, river sparks joint effort

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Four groups have joined forces to form a new organization with a goal of creating a walking path from Glen Echo Park to the Olentangy River.

They face some substantial obstacles, both physical and financial.

Mike McLaughlin, president of the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum, gave a presentation at last week's Clintonville Area Commission meeting on the goals and ambitions of the newly formed Coalition United for Glen Echo Ravine, or CUGER for short.

The arboretum is being joined by the organizations Friends of the Ravine, Glen Echo Bird Club and Friends of Portal Park in creating the coalition, McLaughlin said.

The formation of CUGER was spurred by a recent proposal that would have placed a car wash on a vacant North High Street lot that once was home to a White Castle restaurant, he said. CAC members voted in November to reject a rezoning request from Georgia-based Goo-Goo 3 Minute Express Wash, and the application subsequently was withdrawn.

The property at 2725 N. High St. has long been on the radar for the arboretum, McLaughlin said, but the development proposal finally stirred members to action and led to the creation of the Coalition United for Glen Echo Ravine.

The site, which is evenly split between Clintonville and the University District, sits overtop a portion of the ravine; it was filled in well over a half-century ago. The property still is owned by White Castle and the current asking price is $750,000, McLaughlin said.

But that property is only one of several CUGER would have to obtain to create the walking trail. Another is the Tim Hortons restaurant almost directly across North High Street.

CUGER plans to take an approach similar to that employed by members of the Sharon Heights Community Association, whose members successfully raised money and lobbied city officials to build a park to replace an old school building that had been razed, McLaughlin said at the CAC meeting.

Members of the coalition will begin to develop a campaign for raising the necessary funds to create the walking path, restore portions of the ravine and create a southern gateway for Clintonville, McLaughlin said. Others will develop a budget to determine just how much money might be required.

McLaughlin said he has met with Alan D. McKnight, director of Columbus Recreation and Parks, as well as Councilman Zachary M. Klein to apprise them of the new group's existence and intentions.

Eventually, he added, property acquired under the auspices of CUGER would be donated to the city.

Once a feasibility study is completed for the overall project, McLaughlin said an open house will be held to give community residents an opportunity to review plans and offer suggestions.

A capital campaign would be launched at that point.

"Restoration is going to be a critical part of this project," McLaughlin said. "We need to promise that the ravine is going to be in better shape than it is now."

No action is needed on the part of CAC members, he said, but he asked that District 9's D Searcy be appointed the panel's liaison to the new organization.

"Certainly," Searcy said.

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