A new neighborhood group called Friends of Pine Quarry Park is rallying around the Reynoldsburg venue, hoping to promote public awareness of the park and encourage more visitors.

John Seryak, who founded the group with Jan Hills, said even beyond that, the hope is that members of the friends group will become just that -- friends.

The Friends of Quarry Park Facebook page, created by Hills, went online Feb. 28. By June 18, the membership count was at 250 and climbing.

"The group has met twice: Once for a simple meet-and-greet and second for the ribbon-cutting ceremony (June 12) at the newly installed bridges," Seryak said. "We even have a Friends of Pine Quarry Park logo on T-shirts that members can purchase and wear when we gather for park cleanups or a simple walk in the park."

The entrance to the 39-acre city park is at 8000 Kingsley Drive, where the road dead-ends.

Within the park are walking paths through extensive pinewoods and a rocky gorge once used as a limestone quarry in the 1800s and early 1900s.

According to "History of Reynoldsburg and Truro Township, Ohio," by Cornelia M. Parkinson, the land for the park was donated to the city for use as a recreation area in 1976 by several residents who owned pieces of it -- Mr. and Mrs. Dean Jeffers, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Carpenter, Mr. and Mrs. J. Evan Williams and Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Redman.

As the years flew by, however, two bridges built to get hikers over French Run Creek became dilapidated and unsafe, prompting the city to close them in 2014.

That changed June 12, after Mayor Brad McCloud cut a ribbon across one of two newly constructed bridges at the park, flanked by Parks & Recreation Director Donna Bauman and Friends of Pine Quarry Park.

"I am thankful and overjoyed with the new bridges," Hills said. "The dilapidated structures were not only an eyesore, but a safety hazard, encouraging some visitors to devise more adventurous methods of crossing the creek, making the area an accident just waiting to happen."

On March 12, Reynoldsburg City Council accepted a bid from Axis Civil Construction for $196,735 to complete park improvements.

Of that amount, Bauman said the city spent $121,765 to replace the bridges and made other improvements as well, including resurfacing the parking lot and constructing a new timber fence, retaining wall and trench drain, at a total of $74,970.

"The Parks and Recreation Department plans to continue trail clearing and trail improvements," she said.

Most of the money spent should be offset by a $100,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, expected to be paid soon after the project is complete, Bauman said.

The city also paid $13,505 to EMH&T for construction management and the final bridge inspection.

"It was pure joy to watch the daily progression of the project; each day I was amazed at the work completed and how the park was improving," Bauman said. "Watching the bridges being installed, I felt like a kid in a candy store. It was wonderful to see them being replaced."

Seryak said it was a letter to the city from resident Tom Busher that first mentioned Friends of Pine Quarry, when he expressed concern to the mayor and council about the closed bridges in 2014.

"Once we knew the bridges would be replaced and other improvements were in the works, I reached out through Nextdoor Priestley (a neighborhood website group) to see if there was an interest in forming a loosely organized Friends of Pine Quarry group," Seryak said.

Hills said the group plans to meet periodically.

"We will meet to develop programs that would be of interest to the group," she said. "Partnering with the city has been a joy. Working with one another, brainstorming, identifying resources for programs is a work in progress."

Seryak said members of the Friends of Quarry Park are "advocates and ambassadors" for the park and its preservation.

"It is our hope that park visitors will appreciate this gift of Mother Nature, enjoy time spent in the park with family and friends and develop lasting relationships," he said. "We are advocates and ambassadors for the park, its preservation, upkeep and the safety of its visitors."