A ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Saturday, May 12, to mark the opening of the first walk through the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum is cause for celebration - but not for relaxation, according to Mike McLaughlin.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Saturday, May 12, to mark the opening of the first walk through the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum is cause for celebration - but not for relaxation, according to Mike McLaughlin.

There's simply too much that remains to be done to implement the new slogan for the arboretum, "A Shared Habitat," its president said last week.

The 11 a.m. ceremony will be held near a recently installed information kiosk relating to the arboretum, located in the Indianola Informal K-8 School north parking lot off East Weber Road.

Six speakers representing the various partners who have helped get the arboretum project to this stage, including United Crestview Area Neighbors, Friends of the Ravine and Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed, will provide some brief background and thanks to funding sources, McLaughlin said.

After a large ribbon goes the way of all such ribbons included in ceremonial events, representatives of the partners will lead attendees who are interested on the shorter of two walks that eventually will be within the arboretum.

"Of course, I'm absolutely delighted," McLaughlin said of reaching this milestone in such a relatively short period. "When we filed for that grant money from the Columbus Foundation, it was in the grant that we would have these walks within a short amount of time, if they awarded us the funding for these native trees. We kind of felt that pressure on our back.

"That kept us going."

"The beauty of this whole group is that it was amorphous; it was an opportunity that was unique," said Pete Kovarik, who was elected vice president of the arboretum last week.

The whole thing started in 2010 when some Clintonville residents living near Glen Echo Ravine got together to encourage the planting of native trees as a means of attracting more birds and butterflies, recalled Kovarik, an entomologist who teaches at Columbus State Community College.

The Lower Olentangy Arboretum Steering Committee was formed in late 2010 after the Columbus Foundation awarded both the United Crestview Area Neighbors and Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed grants to purchase and plant canopy trees in the areas north and south of the Glen Echo Ravine.

The arboretum is bounded on the north by Weber Road, on the west by North High Street and the railroad tracks to the east. The southern border is formed by Arcadia Street from North High to Indianola Avenue and then Hudson Street from Indianola to the railroad tracks.

"This is an ecological restoration project the likes of which has not happened anywhere else," Kovarik said. "Part of that is because we've got folks who know a little bit about ecology who are involved and we've got people with a lot of energy ... and, of course, there's Mike, who's the mover and the shaker.

"Community volunteer help has really gotten us to where we're at."

Kovarik's wife, Kim, also a member of the steering committee, said she is surprised and, then again, not surprised the ribbon-cutting will take place so shortly after the organization and its efforts got under way.

"That it came to fruition this quickly, that is a surprise, because the amount of help and assistance we got from various entities, such as the city of Columbus, OSU students, people from FLOW ... made it happen so much faster and so much better," she said. "That it happened, I had no doubt that once we had the vision we could accomplish it. The collaboration was just amazing to me."

"Even though there are a lot of houses here ... the beauty is everybody can participate," Pete Kovarik said. "In addition to the trees being planted along the curb, we're trying to get people to plant the trees on their property, and not just any tree, but trees that would have grown here."

Although Mayor Michael Coleman cannot be on hand May 12, McLaughlin said Columbus Recreation and Parks Director Alan McKnight is expected to represent the administration. Many other city officials have been invited to attend.

"We're not sure how many of those people will show up, but I hope government shows some support for this," McLaughlin said. "I just hope they're here to celebrate it with us, because they're an integral part of what we've accomplished."

Once the ceremony is over, he added, it will be back to work for arboretum officials hoping to obtain a grant to pay for a Glen Echo Ravine stormwater mitigation plan, wanting to launch an extensive rain-barrel program and interested in establishing a bird-watching group.

"Afterward, we'll take a beer, we'll pose, go, 'Yay, it's done,' but then we'll move to the next thing," McLaughlin said.

It's going to be a long haul, Kim Kovarik said, because the participants and their efforts will be around for generations to come.

"This is something that I always say about my cat's kittens -- although there won't be any because we've had them fixed -- this is something that's not going to go away when Pete and I and Mike everyone has left the planet," she said. "It's going to continue to grow even after we are gone. It's a lasting tribute."

"The ultimate outcome is these ravines are full of warblers and other migratory birds during the springtime, and most people don't ever get to see these birds," Pete Kovarik said. "This is a way to get urban kids reconnected with the environment. This is a way as a community that we can become better stewards."