The parks and recreation programming throughout Whitehall is growing, increasing and expanding.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Whitehall Community Park. This 80-acre gem is the city's largest park and one of the largest nature parks inside Interstate 270.

The city has been busy transforming the park into an oasis that provides something for everyone.

Last year, we enhanced the entrance and created a traffic loop to improve vehicular and pedestrian flow into the park. In addition to making the space more accessible, new play areas, structures, trails and shelters were added in the upper level to create engaging experiences for get-togethers with families, neighbors and friends.

The new 6-plus-acre meadow in the lower level, now accessible by car, is thriving, with soft trails and labyrinths inviting you to explore.

With more than 30 years of invasive-species growth having been eliminated along the park's upper edges and Big Walnut Creek, we have reclaimed more than 8 acres of land for visitors to enjoy.

Since the beginning of 2017, the city and its partners have invested more than $7 million into improvements within Whitehall Community Park.

This year, we began the restoration and naturalization of the Big Walnut tributary that once separated the park from the former Four Seasons Golf Center. This project restructures the water flow and creates a more natural environment in this area of the park.

In 2020, we are poised to accomplish even more.

Next year, crews will finalize the tributary work with the installation of new plants along the banks. In addition, through funding provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, we will create water access for canoes and kayaks into Big Walnut Creek. This important project will allow park visitors to further enjoy the beauty of this waterway.

The new possibilities for activity in Big Walnut Creek will attract so many Whitehall and central Ohio residents during the summer, it is sure to become a staple destination for the entire community.

During the winter, when Big Walnut Creek is frozen over, the new Whitehall Community Park YMCA provides the perfect place for indoor activities.

Opening Friday, Nov. 22, this 25,600-square-foot center features a new fitness facility, a renovated instructional kitchen, a 4,000-square-foot artificial-turf field, and spaces designed for robust summer programs for youth, afterschool programs for middle school students and life and job-skill development classes.

This truly will be a hub for our community in which to learn, to be fit and to gather.

Outside of Whitehall Community Park, progress continues.

Construction of the first phase of the new dog park, to be located at the northwest corner of Washburn Street and Beechwood Road, is scheduled to kick off in the spring and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

We are excited to be in the midst of the most transformative and impactful projects to ensure that the Whitehall community has access to the best programming, amenities and facilities we can offer.

Spend a day this winter sledding in the park, or purchase a membership this holiday season for you and your loved ones for the new Whitehall Community Park YMCA.

Whichever activity you choose, wherever you decide to gather, we are dedicated to making sure the sense of community in Whitehall is strong.

Shannon Sorrell is director of parks and recreation for the city of Whitehall.