Gahanna Parks and Recreation and two church partners invite the community to celebrate a new park and the completion of a section of the Big Walnut Trail on April 26 and 27.

Beginning at 10 a.m. April 26, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held for Section 4 of the Big Walnut Trail near the site of the former Fraternal Order of Police lodge on East Johnstown Road near Stonybrook Church, 485 Cherry Bottom Road.

The approximately 1-mile section connects Big Walnut Trail Section 5 along Olde Ridenour Road to the existing Big Walnut Trail Section 3 on Nob Hill Drive, according to Beth McCollam, city marketing manager.

She said Stonybrook Church has been an instrumental community partner since the beginning of the project that started in May 2018.

The church donated an easement that allowed the trail to connect from Olde Ridenour Road to East Johnstown Road, and provided staging areas for the contractor that were necessary for the work.

"Opportunities to impact community accessibility, encourage physical health and reclaim the environment, all at one time, are very rare," said the Rev. Lou Seipel, head pastor at Stonybrook Church. "Stonybrook Church has appreciated the great partnership we've had with the city, and could not be more pleased with the Big Walnut Creek Trail."

Rob Priestas, Gahanna's director of public service and engineering, said the city is lucky to have great partners, such as Stonybrook, that share the common goal of wanting to improve the quality of life for residents.

The total project cost is about $2.2 million, of which the city was able to obtain grant funds to help offset more than half of the expense, according to McCollam.

Park name unveiling

Beginning at 10 a.m. April 27, a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new park on the west side of Gahanna at the northeast corner of Hines and McCutcheon roads will take place.

Councilman Stephen Renner governed a park-naming committee with Ward 1 residents, and the name will be revealed at the ceremony, McCollam said.

An Arbor Day celebration with a tree planting will precede the event at the park at 8 a.m., and a light pancake breakfast coordinated with CenterPoint Church, 620 McCutcheon Road, will follow festivities at 10:30 a.m.

The playground was made possible with donations from the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, the Gahanna Parks and Recreation Foundation, the Ohio District Kiwanis Foundation and the Gahanna Kiwanis, said Jeff Barr, Gahanna's parks and recreation director. He said funding also came from a Capital Improvement Community Recreation Projects grant through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and a 2019 mini-grant from the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District for native-habitat planting.

"I'd like to thank these organizations for their contributions," he said. "Without them, this project would not have been possible. We are extremely proud of this inclusive and adaptive playground and we are looking forward to the joy and excitement it will bring to kids in this neighborhood and throughout Gahanna."

Ground was broken for the new park in March 2017, but construction didn't begin immediately, according to McCollam.

"CenterPoint Church is so excited to celebrate the opening of this new park around us," said the Rev. Dave Jansen, head pastor at the church. "It is our desire to serve our community and to build authentic friendships with our neighbors.

"We are glad that this land can be used to bring joy to neighborhood families for generations to come and we hope that CenterPoint can be a beacon of light and hope at the middle of it," he said.