The new Commonwealth Park master plan is complete.

The 15-member committee of residents that has been drafting the document for the past year voted unanimously to approve the final version at a Jan. 31 meeting at Bexley City Hall.

Commonwealth Park is east of North Parkview Avenue and west of North Drexel Avenue and is bordered by Commonwealth Park North and Commonwealth Park South streets.

The master plan lays out a long-term vision for the park, based on the committee's discussions and residents' feedback gathered in a series of public forums over recent months.

During the meeting, committee members, Mayor Ben Kessler, recreation director Michael Price and representatives from consulting firm Brian Kent Jones discussed a final set of revisions.

"One of the things that helped this committee was to lay out certain parameters," said committee member Christine Poon. "We tended to call them guiding principles."

The plan calls for enhancements to be made gradually to Commonwealth Park as the city identifies funding sources for amenities such as additional landscaping, art installations and a walking path. The plan also specifies the park is designed primarily for passive recreation and will not host special events such as weddings or concerts, but will continue to be used as a place for local athletic teams to practice.

"I think Mike (Price) and the mayor were very clear in the very beginning that there was going to be organized sports on these parcels -- there was not going to be more than what's there today, but there was not going to be less," Poon said.

One aspect of the plan that generated debate at the meeting, just as it did at the final public forum held Dec. 11, is a proposal to add a pedestrian walkway, landscaped medians and parking on Columbia Avenue between Commonwealth Park's east and west sides.

Narrowing Columbia Avenue's existing width of 28 feet in each driving lane to 18 to 20 feet in each driving lane could cause motorists to avoid Columbia altogether, Poon said.

"My concern is, I don't want this to be a stealth way of closing the road down," she said. "If people come at this thing and it's choking you off and it feels really narrow, people are just going to start to divert."

There are other areas of Bexley that are just as narrow, or more so, than the proposed changes to Columbia, said Jack Lucks, another committee member.

"In south Bexley, you have 26 feet (in each driving lane), parking on both sides and cars going two ways," he said. "You could cut this down, the pavement, and still satisfy people wanting to use Columbia."

Adding the median and parking to Columbia will act as a traffic-calming measure, Kessler said.

"If I live on Columbia, I'm going to feel great about it, because people are going to be less inclined to speed on my street," he said. "On the other hand ... if they want to drive down the street to get to their house, which is most of the traffic on Columbia, they're going to want to take that beautiful route through the park."

The Commonwealth Park master plan will be submitted to the city's Recreation Board and Tree and Public Gardens Commission for approval, and then go to Bexley City Council for a final vote. For more information, visit bexley.org.

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