In late summer 2009, Metro Parks in Columbus, Ohio, opened its newest downtown park on the site of a former brownfield on a peninsula in the Scioto River. The 94-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park includes features designed to lure young professionals back to the downtown area and serve as habitat for birds and other wildlife that flock to the river. The park is still expanding to encompass more brownfields along the river.
The idea for the new downtown park was included in a Riverfront Vision Plan Columbus adopted in 1998 that called for the creation of 600 acres of new parkland, which would give the city 1,300 acres of connected open space along the Scioto River. In 2003, the city, Audubon Ohio and Franklin County Metro Parks agreed to collaborate on a project to reclaim and restore 160 acres on the Whittier Peninsula, an industrial strip of land that had been home to foundries, steel and iron works, machine shops, railroad yards, landfills, warehouses and the city's impound lot over the past 100 years.
The city owns the majority of the land, which it leases to Metro Parks for $1, and Metro Parks paid $2.1 million to purchase one additional parcel. Some of the industrial and manufacturing activities had contaminated the soil and water, so Metro Parks secured local, state and federal funds for extensive brownfield remediation. Remediation has cost $3.3 million so far.
Metro Parks and Audubon Ohio removed invasive plants and restored the forest edge along the river to provide new habitat for birds, waterfowl and other wildlife. On 2 acres, Audubon Ohio built the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, an 18,000-square-foot LEED Gold-certified facility with classrooms, a library, a 200-seat auditorium, an observation room for birding and demonstration gardens.
Park visitors can hike and jog on the Scioto Greenway Trail, launch boats into the river and fish. The park also has the largest free outdoor climbing wall in the United States. Three competition-size sand volleyball courts are located near the climbing wall, and there are two dog parks on a 2-acre site, each with an obstacle activity course.
Remediation of the city's former impound lot should be completed in about a year, followed by completion of the remainder of the park facilities in 2012 and 2013. A community involvement process is under way to determine what features will be included in the expanded park. Ideas being considered include a human obstacle course, a BMX track, picnic facilities and a disc golf course.
Project: Scioto Audubon Metro Park
Jurisdiction: Columbus, Ohio
Agencies: Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, Audubon Ohio, Columbus Recreation and Parks Department
Date opened: August 2009
Cost: $20 million