The Whitehall Recreation and Parks Department is continuing to gather public input toward the future extension of the Big Walnut Trail.
Meanwhile, the city this summer will construct within Whitehall Community Park the first section of what is expected to become a connection between two terminuses of the existing Big Walnut Trail, in Gahanna, and Big Walnut Park, in Columbus, said Shannon Sorrell, the city's recreation and parks director.
The future extension of the trail -- which consists of several segments stretching from Westerville to Three Creeks Metro Park in Groveport -- is among the goals of Central Ohio Greenways to extend walking paths and trails throughout the region.
Since an open house Feb. 7 at Whitehall Community Park, "we have taken opportunities at (other) public events to continue sharing information about the alignment study, park projects and other city initiatives with the public and our stakeholders," Sorrell said.
The alignment study, approved by Whitehall's Recreation and Parks Commission, is the initial draft of the alignment of the future Big Walnut Trail.
The extension would follow the Big Walnut Creek between the trail's terminus near Price Road in Gahanna, south through Whitehall to Big Walnut Park.
"Trail work will take multiple years and will align with citywide development and road-project timing," Sorrell said.
The Big Walnut Trail is the easternmost north-to-south component of the Central Ohio Greenways System, according to Sorrell.
Trail placement through Whitehall "was a blank map" until officials from Columbus, Gahanna and Whitehall began meeting late last year with Columbus-based OMH Advisors to create an alignment study, Sorrell said.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission created the Central Ohio Greenways in 2015 to increase the number of trails systems.
Extension of the Big Walnut Trail would meet the goal of MORPC to increase opportunities for alternate transportation, improved quality of life and walkable neighborhoods.
Many Whitehall residents and those who work in the city are looking forward to such opportunities.
"I'm an avid runner and biker and a huge supporter of having more trails in Whitehall," said Katie Cordova, a race director who owns and operates a business that stages running events.
"There is heavy traffic on so many of our roads in Whitehall," said Cordova, who enjoys riding with her husband and their three children.
Cordova said she uses the Alum Creek Trail as well as the Big Walnut Trail and hopes the latter path is extended.
In contrast with the Big Walnut Trail, the Alum Creek path is an unbroken stretch of pavement from Westerville to Groveport.
Ron Wolfinger, a Blacklick resident who works at Dave Gill Chevrolet at East Broad Street and South Hamilton Road, said he would be more comfortable biking in the city if the path were extended.
"There isn't very good bike access (near my employer). If there was a path (through Whitehall), I could even ride a bike to work," Wolfinger said.
The current alignment for a path extension is based on an initial study commissioned by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department for $20,000, said Brad Westall, planning manager for the department.
The trail is planned to be constructed along a 4.5-mile corridor between the Price Road area in Gahanna and Big Walnut Park, 5000 E. Livingston Ave.
Tony Collins, director of the Columbus Recreation Department and chairman of board of directors of Central Ohio Greenways, said his department "is excited to make the connection," adding there is no hard timeline for the project as each municipality considers its own part in the plan.
Whitehall will construct a section of the trail this summer, Sorrell said.
"The current work in Whitehall Community Park includes a 10-foot-wide paved path which will become part of the future Big Walnut Greenways Trail," she said.
Jeff Barr, director of Gahanna's Parks and Recreation Department, said in February the extension "will provide residents (with) greater recreational opportunities."
"We are all supporting each other in our collaborative effort to get it done."