Gahanna's Creekside: Arboretum creates outdoor classroom about tree species

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
An American sycamore tree is one of the species labeled in the new Creekside Park arboretum. The mature height of the sycamore is 75 to 100 feet and prefers an alkaline, wet soil.

Sawtooth oak, black gum, American witch hazel and American sycamore are among 40 newly labeled tree species at Creekside Park, 123 Mill St., as part of Gahanna’s new arboretum.

Stephania Bernard-Ferrell, Gahanna parks and recreation director, said the arboretum creates an inviting educational space to foster learning and awareness of a wide range of tree species.  

“We are hopeful that the opening of the Creekside Arboretum will invite curiosity and provide an understanding of the benefits of tree diversity,” she said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the arboretum has been scheduled for 11 a.m. May 8 at Creekside.

Carrin Wester, city communications manager, said the event also will be livestreamed on the Gahanna Parks & Recreation Facebook page, but in-person participation, with social distancing and masks, is welcomed. 

She said all the signs that label and provide information about species were made by Gahanna Lincoln High School’s Fab Lab students. 

Gahanna has been recognized as Tree City USA, designated by the Arbor Day Foundation, for more than 30 years, Bernard-Ferrell said.

“The Level 1 arboretum designation is yet another way to highlight the city’s commitment to the conservation and education of the urban canopy,” she said. “Health and wellness, environmental benefits and conservation efforts are a few reasons why parks are important to a community.”

Julie Predieri, city forester, said 40 labeled species are in the Creekside Arboretum, even though the requirement was 25 labeled species to qualify for Level 1 arboretum status. 

She said Ohio has 29 Level 1 arboretums, including Gahanna. 

Predieri said other parks and areas within Gahanna could meet the criteria for a Level 1 arboretum if the city were to label the species and draft a maintenance plan. 

A shellbark hickory tree is labeled as part of Creekside Park’s new arboretum. The hickory reaches a height of 75 to 100 feet at maturity and produces an edible nut.

“If we ever wanted to expand our arboretum collection in the future, Woodside Green and Gahanna Woods are the first two that come to mind,” she said. “Columbus Academy is also home to a Level 1 arboretum.”

Predieri said Creekside Park was chosen because it’s a popular location for foot traffic, and it serves as the downtown for Gahanna. 

“We wanted to choose a location that would be impactful and serve lots of visitors,” she said. “Having the arboretum designation is beneficial for many reasons,” Predieri said. 

She said Creekside Arboretum is listed on the ArbNet website, which could draw potential visitors to Gahanna. 

“It also ensures that we will continue to maintain the arboretum into the future because of the requirement to have a maintenance plan,” Predieri said. “The arboretum designation encourages education, and we plan to use Creekside Arboretum to educate people about trees for years to come.”

Gahanna Mayor Laurie Jadwin said the city has a storied history of embracing sustainability initiatives, as reflected in the preservation of more than 750 acres of parkland. 

Gahanna Parks & Recreation plays a vital role in furthering those efforts, she said.

"The creation of the Creekside Arboretum strengthens our designation as ‘Tree City USA’ and further advances our sustainability goals,” she said.   

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla