Planning for the new Metro Park in northern Plain Township moved forward Sept. 21 when members of an advisory group outlined seven goals for the project.

Planning for the new Metro Park in northern Plain Township moved forward Sept. 21 when members of an advisory group outlined seven goals for the project.

The advisory group, comprising representatives from New Albany, Plain Township, local watershed groups and other organizations involved with the park, discussed developing partnerships and local connections; establishing a rural character and image; protecting the Rocky Fork Creek headwaters, enhancing visitor expectations; developing interpretive programs; preserving natural and cultural resources; and providing support services.

When discussing protection of natural resources, and specifically improving the headwaters of the Rocky Fork Creek, New Albany resident and member of local watershed groups Bill Resch said the group has a chance to protect what he called “nature’s kidneys” and keep the headwaters clean. The group discussed home sewage-packaging plants and a small sewer-treatment system from a trailer park in Delaware that feed into the stream. Runoff from farms in the area also enters the stream.

Metro Parks representative Steve Brown said opportunities may be available to use wetlands as a natural filtration system to process impurities from water running into the stream.

The advisory board also discussed whether working with The Ohio State University on such a project could be possible because Ohio State already does similar research. If the university were involved, it could monitor the park’s filtration system and provide feedback to Metro Parks.

Another suggestion was to preserve 100 to 300 feet along the stream corridor, with a horseback-riding path on one side and leisure trails on the other to serve as a buffer to the stream.

The Metro Park planned for northern Plain Township already has 548 acres and the Metro Parks board recently approved the purchase of another 100 acres. Local officials hope the park will include 800 to 1,000 acres. It will be a passive-recreation area only, which means it will have no active areas, such as tennis or basketball courts.

Kim Martin, a planning assistant for Metro Parks, said connecting a trail system from the Metro Park to other parks south of the area and perhaps the city’s leisure trails is possible.

Rick Wieland, a township resident, asked if any development could be done before the park acquired 1,000 acres. He was referring to the original agreement signed by New Albany, Plain Township and Columbus in December 2005 regarding development of a Metro Park in northern Plain Township.

That agreement had a provision to prevent land from being developed in the designated park zone. Columbus agreed not to allow anyone to tap into water and sewer lines within the park zone for five years, or until 1,000 acres was acquired for the park.

The final agreement for development of the Metro Park was signed by New Albany, Plain Township and Columbus in February 2008, before land acquisition began.

Wieland also asked if the park could expand into Licking County.

Brown said it would not at this time because the Metro Parks system is funded mostly through Franklin County.

The advisory group was expected to discuss potential park layouts at its next meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Plain Township Fire Station. The group is seeking a site to hold an open house in October. Officials plan to unveil potential park layouts at the open house and will request community feedback.

lwince@thisweeknews.com

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