Gahanna celebrated National Parks and Recreation Month with the opening of 1,500 feet of trail and a pedestrian bridge. Gahanna's Parks and Recreation Department on July 22 held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication of Section 7 of the Big Walnut Trail.

Gahanna celebrated National Parks and Recreation Month with the opening of 1,500 feet of trail and a pedestrian bridge. Gahanna's Parks and Recreation Department on July 22 held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication of Section 7 of the Big Walnut Trail.

The project received funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources through a Clean Ohio Trail Fund and the Recreation Trail Fund grant.

The 140-by-12-foot prefabricated foot bridge, installed in June, is on the south end of the bike trail that runs past the veterans memorial, near the Gahanna Swim Club Pool, and connects to a trail just north of Price Road.

Section 7 includes 1,500 feet of multipurpose trails, connected to Big Walnut Creek trail to the west and Cliffview Drive to the east of the creek.

The connectivity of the new trail allows residents of southwest Gahanna to gain access to business centers on South Hamilton Road, eliminating the need to travel the busy Granville Street corridor for bike or pedestrian access.

The newly completed project puts Gahanna one step closer to wrapping up the Big Walnut Trail project, parks director Tony Collins said. The 5-mile multipurpose trail will run from Morse Road in the north to Pizzurro Park in southern Gahanna.

"Parks and recreation facilities and programs provide opportunities for citizens all over Ohio to learn and grow and to improve their health while also providing economic and quality-of-life benefits to our communities," Collins said.

The July 22 ceremony was just one in a series of events held this month to celebrate Ohio Parks and Recreation Month, sponsored by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.

On July 18, Mayor Becky Stinchcomb presented a proclamation to the parks department in recognition of the month.

She cited Section 7 of the Big Walnut Trail as a wonderful example of the city's efforts to be "citizen-centric."

Parks and recreation always strives for innovative funding, Stinchcomb said, and receives the bulk of its funding from the city's general fund, as well as from facilities, programs, specialty programming and grants.

The city's parks-recreation department has received more than $1.1 million in grants and has generated more than $1 million in user fees.

In September 2010, ODNR presented Gahanna with a $366,021 check for Big Walnut Trail improvements.

The city will use the Clean Ohio Trails Fund grant to construct two sections of 6,316 square feet of the Big Walnut Trail, an outlook point, drainage, fencing, signs, site furnishings and site preparation. The Clean Ohio Trails Fund provides reimbursement of up to 75 percent in matching state funds.

According to Stinchcomb, Gahanna owns and operates 770 acres of parklands, the second-highest acreage in suburban Franklin County. Stinchcomb credited the park's green initiatives and programs for Gahanna's win of SWACO's Community of the Year.

The programs also are teaching residents how to be good stewards of the environment and draw development, she said.

"Businesses often seek communities with strong parks and recreation programs as an attractive asset for employees and their families," Stinchcomb said.

The Big Walnut Trail concept plan was adopted in 2008. The trail is part of the city's bikeway master plan, which was updated and adopted in 2010.