Plans to create a pedestrian walkway and landscaped "boulevard" on Columbia Avenue between Commonwealth Park's east and west sides generated the most conversation during a Dec. 11 public forum regarding the park's future.

The forum drew about 20 residents to Bexley City Hall and gave one last opportunity for public input on a long-term plan for Commonwealth Park that a steering committee has been drafting for the past year.

The plan outlines features that could be added to the park, which is across from Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., in north Bexley, over the course of the next several years, with no specific timeline for implementation, Mayor Ben Kessler said.

"We're taking a very long-term view of Commonwealth Park," he said. "We're positioning the park to be a better version of itself."

Some residents at the forum expressed concerns that an aspect of the plan proposing the addition of a paved pedestrian walkway, landscaped medians and parking on Columbia Avenue between Commonwealth Park's east and west sides would create safety issues.

Residents questioned whether the street is wide enough to safely accommodate both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

They also cited concerns over whether the pedestrian walkway would encourage student athletes to run back and forth between the park's two sides when cars are driving by.

"In terms of programming, very seldom is there a reason to move from one side for kids," recreation director Michael Price said. "I can see (the pedestrian walkway) being used more in terms of the passive park user, which is more often than not, adults or families."

In response to input from residents who live near Commonwealth Park, the plan doesn't call for athletic activity to be increased at the park beyond the current uses of local teams for practices, Price said.

"What we don't have there, that this plan helps do, is encouraging more passive activities and for this to be a destination for somebody to come and have a picnic, take a walk, enjoy some of the other things that are in the space," Price said.

Aspects of the plan that residents said they liked include the installation of walkways and replacement of existing exercise equipment.

The steering committee, which consists of 15 Bexley residents, will take the feedback from the public forum and finalize the plan, working with Brian Kent Jones, the consulting firm Bexley hired to guide the planning process, Kessler said.

The committee also will begin identifying costs and potential sources of funding.

The committee's schedule calls for submitting the plan for approval to the city's Recreation Board, Tree and Public Gardens Commission and Bexley City Council in early 2018. For more information, visit Bexley.org.

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