Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

What began in 2010 as an effort by Clintonville resident Julie Smiley to urge the planting of native trees in city right-of-way areas in the neighborhood has begun to blossom into the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum.

"It just snowballed," commented arboretum steering committee chairman Mike McLaughlin in offering an update on the ambitious project within the Glen Echo Ravine.

All is on schedule, he said recently, for a May ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of two walking paths, one long and one short, through the growing numbers of native trees being planted by volunteers and others involved in the effort.

A May date would ensure that the dogwoods along the two paths will be in bloom, according to McLaughlin, former District 1 Clintonville Area Commission representative.

The shorter walk, which is expected to take less than an hour to traverse, will pass by 34 native deciduous trees while the longer walk encompasses 43.

On another front, McLaughlin indicated that arboretum steering committee members continue to work with personnel in the Design and Construction Division within the Department of Public Service to come up with a restoration plan for the four slopes surrounding the new Calumet Street Bridge over the Glen Echo Ravine.

"Three of the slopes are privately owned, therefore, it is the property owner's responsibility to use some of the funds that they received for granting the easement to the city for its construction work to pay for any restoration," McLaughlin wrote in an email. "The fourth slope is public right of way; the city will pay for all restoration costs here."

Another ongoing aspect of the arboretum development involves the planting of trees in addition to the more than 180 canopy trees planted by volunteers last fall in tree lawns at least five feet wide. Chad Hoff, municipal nursery manager for the Recreation and Parks Department, has gone back through the area to identify places in narrower tree lawns where smaller trees can be planted.

"Again like last year, we will be purchasing native saplings from OSU's Waterman Farms, but instead of primarily being oaks, the trees this fall will be redbuds and dogwoods," McLaughlin wrote.

New projects include developing a master plan for the arboretum based on a 130-page document produced by students in the landscape architecture class of Ohio State University assistant professor Jake Boswell, a Glen Echo Neighbor Civic Association resident and member of the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum board of directors, the steering committee chairman indicated.

"Just like any park has a master plan, we want a master plan for the arboretum," McLaughlin said in an interview.

A student from the sophomore class, McKenzie Wilhelm, is working on a volunteer basis to help with creating the master plan.

"Ultimately, the arboretum group will be working with city government to have city council adopt an ordinance recognizing the arboretum area and its goals," McLaughlin added in the email.

It is gratifying, he said, to see so much get accomplished in such a short time, and to have so many volunteers become involved.

"I'm very encouraged, because with every project we're constantly picking up more and more people who are interested in what we are doing," McLaughlin said. "It just seems like people know people know people who want to get involved and participate. I see the momentum just continuing."

The involvement of so many OSU faculty members is encouraging on another front, the committee chairman said. In speaking with fellow committee member Peter Kovarik, who is also on the United Crestview Area Neighbors board of directors and a biological and physical sciences instructor at Columbus State Community College, McLaughlin said he was surprised to learn that a number of OSU professors live well away from Columbus, and only come to the city to teach their classes.

A project as ambitious and forward-thinking as an urban arboretum, McLaughlin speculated, might serve to persuade these people and others in similar positions that maybe they would like to live in central Ohio, after all.

"You might have more people saying, 'You know, Columbus has a neighborhood for me,'" McLaughlin said. "We kind of want to be that spot that's like Washington or Oregon right here in Ohio."