Bicyclists hoping for an extension of the Olentangy Greenway Trail into Highbanks Metro Park could be waiting years for a plan.

Bicyclists hoping for an extension of the Olentangy Greenway Trail into Highbanks Metro Park could be waiting years for a plan.

After months of testing three options for paths between the park and the trailhead across the Olentangy River from Camp Mary Orton, Metro Parks officials have decided to step back from the project, citing a lack of support.

"At this point, there is not a clear choice to pursue," said planning manager Steve Studenmund, who was involved with the entire planning and public-outreach process. "There's not one option that all the public liked. The public comments ranged basically from where you live and the perspective of the trail. A lot of folks didn't want it in their backyard."

According to Studenmund, construction on the project alone would have cost more than $3 million regardless of the chosen route. Before construction could begin, land would have to be acquired for the project -- another large expense Metro Parks had not estimated yet.

Studenmund said the combination of tepid public interest and expenses required a different approach.

"We as a park district have kind of decided to slow down the process and put it on hold, due to different challenges that exist, from funding to land acquisition to community support to constructibility, because all three options have major obstacles," he said.

Most residents who shared negative feelings said they were concerned about the trail being too close to their properties. Although Studenmund expected those concerns, he said, he was "somewhat surprised" at the public backlash.

"We've been developing shared-use trails for 15 years, and that's the first comment we get, is that they're concerned about how it will affect their neighborhood and property values," he said. "We have trails in central Ohio that go right next to houses and connect housing developments and different communities together. But that's something, as a trail planner, that we anticipate."

Although he understands those concerns, Studenmund said, the trails wouldn't decrease value of nearby homes.

"There's a good study on the Miami Greenway in southwest Ohio and other state and regional studies that talks about trails adding value to the community, both property value and quality-of-life value, to residents and community as a whole," he said.

Studenmund said he believes the project would be done "eventually," but it would require time and more conversations with the state, Columbus and Franklin and Delaware counties, whose funding would be necessary.

"There has to be more conversation and more dialogue that has to evolve," he said. "Let's say we choose option C, which jumps the creek three times. Partnerships have to evolve; funding has to evolve; and state has to be conducive to those plans."

In the meantime, Studenmund said, Metro Parks will be "opportunistic in our approach" and will continue to develop paths within Highbanks.

"We're open to any option," Studenmund said. "Our goal is to provide some sort of physical connection, whether it's from Delaware County into Highbanks or from the city of Columbus getting up to the north. We're open to all those types of connections and partnerships."