A bend in the Scioto River just north of London-Groveport Road runs against parkland owned by Grove City for more than a decade.

A bend in the Scioto River just north of London-Groveport Road runs against parkland owned by Grove City for more than a decade.

Few people in Grove City and Jackson Township have ever seen it.

Dubbed Talbott Park, its 193 acres connect with Hibbs Road in the southeast corner of Grove City. It's a quick walk for hundreds of residents of Hennigan's Grove and Scioto Meadows subdivisions, smartly kept neighborhoods of Dominion Homes houses built in the last decade and valued at $200,000 and more.

Talbott Park is not open to the public, Grove City parks and recreation director Kim Conrad said. She occasionally gives permission for people to fish there but the land's in a flood plain and the city has left it largely untended.

Until now.

The Columbus and Franklin County Metropolitan Park District board voted this month to convert the land, and perhaps hundreds more acres that adjoin it, into a regional park.

Grove City Council will get legislation in July to give the land to Metro Parks. It would be added to a 70-acre parcel off Jackson Pike that Metro Parks bought last October for $328,000, and more land as it becomes available on the western side of the Scioto.

Steve Studenmund, Metro Parks land acquisition manager and strategic planner, said the long-term goal is to amass 400 or more acres for a park that could open in 2012. The target zone for acquisitions is north of state Route 665. Metro Parks in particular is looking for land on higher ground that would accommodate wildlife observation areas, trails, playgrounds, picnic shelters, parking lots and other amenities.

Studenmund said the lowlands, Grant Run and a former quarry on the initial 160 or so acres leave little land suitable for development.

"There's a diversity of land forms," he said. "There are some parts of Jackson Township with bluffs and high points that are really cool, overlooking the river."

Dick Talbott gave the one-time farmland to Grove City in 1999 when he sold Dominion the adjacent land that's since become the housing developments, Conrad said.

"The parks and recreation department realized that we don't have the personnel or equipment to take care of it," Conrad said. Several years ago, she approached Metro Parks to care for and develop the land.

Metro Parks was interested but needed voter approval to pay for what would be the only Metro Park between Darby Creek Metro Park and Groveport. Franklin County voters passed a 0.75-mill property tax in May 2009 that is to be used to create the Grove City-Jackson Township park. Others are coming near Groveport and in Plain Township-New Albany.

Conrad said city officials pondered building soccer fields, a disc golf course, equestrian or dog trails and walking paths on the land. But those ideas floundered.

"There are big drawbacks," she said. "We couldn't do parking."

In partnership with Metro Parks, "there are many more possibilities," she said.

In late 2011, Metro Parks will assemble an advisory committee to help determine local priorities for the land. In addition to the Metro Parks staff, the committee will enlist community members as well as Jackson Township and Grove City officials.

Studenmund mentioned the disc golf idea among the possibilities.

Metro Parks focuses on natural areas, wildlife and passive recreation.

"We like river corridors," he said, and called the area particularly scenic because of its water features. But don't expect Metro Parks to break tradition and create swimming facilities. The regional parks network doesn't develop beaches or allow swimming.

"It's a beautiful piece of property," with young and old forested areas that have reverted to their natural state, Conrad added.

Land east of the Scioto isn't likely to become parkland in the next decade or two. Several quarrying operations are active in that area off U.S. Route 23 and could be removing rock for up to 20 years. When those activities wind down, an east-of-the-river expansion would be possible, Studenmund said.

The future park will be named closer to its opening, officials said.