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Grant-funded study looks into Glen Echo connecter trail

Construction, land acquisition for proposed path to Olentangy could cost more than $3 million

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A $17,000 grant from the Columbus Foundation's Green Funds, awarded last week to the Coalition United for Glen Echo Ravine, is being called a step in the right direction toward a trail to connect Glen Echo Park with the Olentangy River.

But nobody should lace up their walking shoes just yet, says Mike McLaughlin.

The president of the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum, one of seven organizations that makes up the coalition, said the money will be used to pay for a feasibility study that will in turn indicate whether it might be possible to raise the funds needed for the project, which could range from $1 million to $1.2 million for construction of the walking trail and from $1.5 million to $2 million for land acquisition.

The latter would include the North High Street site of a former White Castle restaurant that straddles the border between Clintonville and the University District.

The grant from the Green Funds, which was created "to enhance the quality of life in central Ohio by supporting responsible use of natural resources and ensuring their availability for future generations," according to the foundation's website, will be used to hire Benefactor Group, an organization based in downtown Columbus that works to help nonprofit organizations.

"Everyone in CUGER is just absolutely delighted that the Columbus Foundation felt our project was worth further investigation," McLaughlin said. "The feasibility study, what it gives CUGER at the end of this is the funding sources for two components."

Building the trail and acquiring the needed property constitute those separate components, he added.

The other organizations that make up the coalition are Clintonville Inc., Friends of the Ravines, Friends of Portal Park, Glen Echo Bird Club, Glen Echo Neighbors Civic Association and United Crestview Area Neighbors.

The feasibility study will use up all of the $17,000 Green Funds grant, McLaughlin said -- and it will be worth the cost.

"Absolutely this is the right direction to go, because before anyone undertakes a capital campaign, you have to do a feasibility study," McLaughlin said. "There's a long distance to go, but the feasibility study gives us the road map to get to the finish line."

Members of the Benefactor Group's staff will review CUGER's internal working documents, seek to create a case in support of the walking-trail project, then conduct interviews with 20 to 30 area residents before providing recommendations on mounting a successful capital campaign, McLaughlin said.

"Those interviews are with people with access to resources, and those can be individuals or institutions -- and then they'll be reaching out to people in the know, influential people," he added.

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