New Albany News

Metro Park expected to open next year

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The Rocky Fork Metro Park just north of New Albany should be ready for use next year, according to the Metro Parks budget for 2014.

"We can't wait until it opens," said New Albany Mayor Nancy Ferguson.

The park is being developed by Metro Parks on more than 1,000 acres north of Walnut Street between Schott and Bevelhymer roads.

Ferguson said many uses were proposed for the park in planning sessions held in 2011. These included a dog park and equestrian trails.

"It's a long plot of land that really suits itself to things like equestrian uses, like horseback-riding trails," Ferguson said. "I attended one of early planning meetings where they were gathering ideas and asking how a Metro Park might be used and equestrian use was high on the list.

"Adjacent to the new Metro Park are several stables where people could board their own horses or possibly rent horses to ride in the park."

Ferguson said a dog park also has generated a lot of interest.

She said several residents have spent the past six years campaigning for a dog park, even offering to help raise funds to build one.

"It's been at the top of our capital improvements list for the last couple of years but we haven't been able to allocate resources to it," Ferguson said.

The conceptual drawings developed in 2011 after public planning sessions were held at the Plain Township fire station show picnic areas, horseback-riding trails, walking paths, educational areas, preservation zones, places for dog walking and habitat restoration in the Rocky Fork Metro Park.

Existing natural features, such as the headwaters of the Rocky Fork Creek, would be preserved.

Metro Parks has dedicated $2.5 million of its $5.335 million capital-improvements budget for 2014 to the Rocky Fork Metro Park.

According to the budget, the money will be used for "roadway and parking lot improvements, paved, gravel and unimproved trails including decks and boardwalks, shelters, restrooms, signage and educational exhibits. Portions of the proposed multipurpose trail will be constructed and paved. Several areas of the park will be made accessible to the public."

Plans will be finalized this winter and work is expected to start in the spring, according to the Metro Parks budget.

Metro Parks also is committed to acquiring more land for the park as part of an agreement finalized in May with its local development partners.

In May, Columbus, New Albany and Metro Parks committed another $250,000 each year for five years and Plain Township committed $50,000 each year for five years.

Columbus City Council and New Albany City Council designated the funds for land acquisition, Plain Township designated funds for park development and Metro Parks' funds can be used for either, said John O'Meara, Metro Parks executive director.

The budget said Metro Parks officials planned to use $1 million of its $4 million land-acquisition fund to acquire more land for the Rocky Fork park.

The 2014 budget calls for hiring a Rocky Fork park manager but it said the duties will be fulfilled by Blendon Woods staff members until "the progress of the park development warrants filling the vacancy."

Metro Parks is funded by revenue from parks facilities, grants and a 10-year, 0.75-mill levy approved by central Ohio voters in 2009.

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