City Notes: Whitehall residents asked to share visions for future of greenspaces

Kim Maggard
Guest Columnist
Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.

Despite the recent snowfall, warm weather is here, which means we’re looking to the outdoors for fun and safe socially distanced activities.  

For that, many of us turn to our park systems both for active or passive recreational opportunities. But what if your parks did more than provide a shared space for sports, picnics, swing sets and walking trails? What if our parks, our trails and our waterways actually connected us on a regional level? And what if reinvestments into our greenspaces could be amplified by a regional plan, with an entire system, instead of individual parks, being our end goal?  

I’m excited to share that this both possible and happening right now with the RAPID 5 Project, a comprehensive planning effort led by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Columbus.  

If you’ve tuned in to the city’s recent information on our “Decade of Development,” you may have learned about the more than $9.7 million that has been reinvested into the city’s five parks and park facilities since 2017.  

But did you know that the city also has been leveraging state and regional partnerships to make improvements to the segment of Big Walnut Creek that flows through Whitehall Community Park? Most recently, those improvements have included two new access points for fishing, kayaking and general exploration.  

It turns out that the city isn’t alone in our efforts to improve our access to local waterways, and reinvestment into central Ohio’s five main rivers (Big Walnut Creek, Scioto River, Olentangy River, Alum Creek and Big Darby Creek) has grown immensely in the last decade.  

At the same time, central Ohio has seen major improvements to storm and sanitary sewer systems, improving water quality in our rivers and streams, and Metro Parks and Central Ohio Greenways have expanded our trail systems.  

RAPID 5 plans to capitalize on this reinvestment and take it a step further by bringing together local governments, like Whitehall, with business and community members to develop a regional plan to connect our greenspaces into one cohesive system.  

Ultimately the goal is to connect all central Ohio residents to the system, specifically adding access points in disadvantaged areas to ensure that everyone can take advantage of our waterways, trails and greenspaces for both recreation and transportation. 

Want to get involved in the planning? Efforts are underway to ensure that all interested community members can share their vision for the project. Learn more about RAPID 5 and share your ideas at rapid5.org.  

You also can learn more about the potential benefits of RAPID 5 for economic development from the most recent episode of Whitehall Works, in which Development Director Zach Woodruff and Economic Development Manager Jenna Goehring interview Keith Myers, vice president of Planning, Architecture and Real Estate, Office of Administration & Planning at Ohio State University and ULI Columbus District Council Chairman, about the project. Listen at whitehallmeansbusiness.com.  

I can’t wait to be a part of this transformational project and to see how opportunities are expanded for both Whitehall residents and the central Ohio community at large. 

Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.