It's been talked about for several years, and now Reynoldsburg has a renewed focus on the entrance officials say Pine Quarry Park deserves.

City Council on Jan. 27 unanimously approved a $65,319.24 contract to buy a vacant lot of 1.9 acres at 1140 Waggoner Road with the goal to eventually build a second entrance and parking lot.

Pine Quarry is the "hidden jewel" of the city's park system, said Mayor Joe Begeny, but "most people don't know of its existence."

Nestled among the homes between Main and Broad streets, visitors can access the 39-acre park at 8000 Kingsley Drive, where the road dead-ends into a small parking lot.

Seven trails run through tall pinewoods and a rocky gorge once used as a limestone quarry in the 1800s and early 1900s.

"While on the paths, visitors can experience the beauty of this natural setting. Various wildflowers such as May apples and Virginia bluebells, along with Pawpaw trees and native gray dogwoods, are seen," said Donna Bauman, parks and recreation director. "Pine Quarry is home to red foxes, deer, turtles, and a wide range of birds."

It's a "wooded wonder," she added.

The land was donated to the city in the 1970s for a recreation area.

In 1995, Reynoldsburg spent $95,000 to buy the lot to the north, 1106 Waggoner Road. A house on the property since has been demolished and plans call for that site to be combined with the property at 1140 Waggoner Road for a second entrance and parking area, officials said.

"Most people are excited to have additional parking because the current lot holds about six cars," said John Seryak, co-founder of the Friends of Pine Quarry Park, a community group organized three years ago as a way to "get more people into the park."

There were concerns about vandalism and disrepair at the park a few years ago, Seryak said, but much of that has changed.

In 2018, the city replaced two dilapidated bridges that cross French Run Creek, which runs along the eastern portion of the park. The parking lot was resurfaced the same year and new timber fencing, a retaining wall and a trench drain were installed.

"It's this little park that is truly a gem in the neighborhood," Seryak said. "All the improvements that have happened have really increased the use of the park by families, groups and dogs."

The Friends of Pine Quarry Park has organized events like dog walks and small acoustic concerts, but the city does not offer programming at the park.

The intention is to keep Pine Quarry a "passive recreation park," focusing on activities like studying wildlife in its natural habitat, tree identification and hiking, Bauman said.

"With the addition of the entrance and additional parking we hope to explore future programming at the park," Bauman said. "Our goal is to build a nature center, restroom and a more defined picnic area with a nature-based play area."

Reynoldsburg is in the early stages of developing a comprehensive plan that will establish goals for the entire park system, Begeny said. Once finished, officials should have a better idea on the cost and timeline for parks projects, including Pine Quarry.

"As we move forward, we will be having many public meetings about the future of all of our parks," Begeny said. Buying the land off Waggoner is "step one in this overall process."

In other business, council:

* Appointed Steven Hicks and Keith Benner to the planning commission for a term ending Dec. 31, 2022.

* Appointed Alexander Furst, Olivia Bulls and Amy Barnhart to the board of zoning and building appeals (BZBA) for a term ending Dec. 31, 2022.

The next council meeting will be 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, at City Hall, 7232 E. Main Street.