Whetstone Park's prairie has been cut, its tall grasses shortened to make way for new grass, flowers and plants this year.

The Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks mows the prairie after mid-October to avoid destroying wildlife, especially nesting songbirds.

The parks department has scheduled controlled burns in the past at the Clintonville park to clear ground cover and make way for new grasses and flowers in the spring.

But too many woody plants had grown in the prairie to have a safe and effective burn this year, said Sophia Fifner, department spokeswoman.

The Whetstone prairie was planted about 16 years ago, but fell into neglect.

At the end of 2018, the Clintonville Area Commission heard from Tina Mohn, natural resources and property manager with the city's parks department, who laid out the city's five-year plan for the prairie's restoration.

Mohn said the Whetstone prairie is the only urban one among the city's parks.

Usually, mowing is completed every other year to prevent woody plants from establishing themselves and overtaking prairies.

The city cuts in a way to try to leave as many cavities within plants as possible so pollinating insects cocooning within them can survive. They include moths, butterflies, flies and bees.

The department will seed 35 perennial native plant species, including Virginia wildrye, bluestem, Grama grass, Canada wildrye, Illinois bundleflower, purple coneflower, fringed sedge, fox sedge, lance-leaved coreopsis, blanket flower, ox eye sunflower, prairie clover, purple prairie clover, wild lupine and common milkweed.

"The benefit for us is to increase biodiversity, increase habitat diversity in the park," Fifner said.

The department will talk with the Ohio Prescribed Fire Council to see if they should collaborate on a burn in 2021.

The Whetstone Park prairie -- located near the Olentangy Trail, directly south of Adena Brook and Whetstone's parking lot -- was 4.5 acres, but now is 3.5 acres because officials decided to let trees grow again in the remainder of the area.

"Prairies are not meant to be everywhere," said Laura Fay, the secretary of Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed, which has worked with the city at Whetstone Park's prairie.

Fay said the prairie also has two vernal pools, which provide habitats for toads. The Olentangy River corridor is a flyway for birds, with the prairie giving them a food supply.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik