Sports fields, bird-watching meadows, wetlands and walking trails, plus a new branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library are all ideas that officials from the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks are planning for the new city park in the former Ohio State University sheep farm on the northwest side.
“One of the biggest things people wanted at the park was a library,” said Roy Wentzel, a Northwest Side resident and chairman of the Northwest Civic Association’s sheep farming committee, which lobbied for a park for years.
Park officials presented concepts at a meeting earlier this month. The property at 2425 West Case Road is just south of Ohio State Airport, Don Scott Field, and is currently called West Case Road Park.
Cheryl Grossman, who heads the Northwest Civic Association, said city park officials listened to suggestions from residents.
“They didn’t ignore our wishes and interests,” Grossman said. “People were concerned about keeping the park as natural as possible.”
Wetland conservation is a concern in the new Columbus Park
One option maintains existing wetlands while enhancing them with native plantings, while removing invasive plants from Slate Run and replanting native vegetation. A retention pond and wetland shelves would collect and manage stormwater.
It would also have meadows and three football pitches and a cricket ground, as well as a small events centre, community gathering space and meadows.
Wentzel said he likes this concept because he also retains and reuses the red barn on the property along West Case Road. He said it preserved the feel of the site’s agricultural use all those years ago.
The other option also includes three football pitches and a cricket ground, as well as an existing farmhouse which would be transformed into an open-air pavilion linked to an adjacent events centre.
Brad Westall, planning manager for the city’s recreation and parks department, said the concepts also show hard-surface courts for pickleball, basketball and handball. The park will also include an outpost for city forestry crews and a path connecting the park to the nearby Carriage Place community center.
Westall said elements of the two plans will be combined into a final master plan due to be presented in October.
The city purchased the nearly 58-acre parcel in 2019 for $5.2 million. Columbus officials had planned to sell 34 acres to Upper Arlington, which wanted to use the space for its own park. But the residents of Columbus objected, and the city abandoned the idea.
The city now plans to begin construction on the first phase of the new park by late summer or early fall 2023, Westall said.
But construction could take five to ten years, depending on funding and construction schedules. He said there were no cost estimates yet.
The New Columbus Metropolitan Library branch had been sought out by nearby residents
As for the library branch, Columbus Metropolitan Library spokesman Ben Zenitsky said the conversation with city parks officials was preliminary, but ongoing.
“We plan to build a new library there, subject to the city park plan being in place,” he said.
Zenitsky said library officials have heard the call from residents about the need for a library in the area. The site is approximately 3.6 miles from the nearest library branch in Dublin.
“Last year, we assessed the need and feasibility of adding a location. We determined that the population and growing needs of the community demonstrate the need for a library in this area,” Zenitsky said.
It would be the 24th branch library in Franklin County, he said.
Ellen Carol Jones, who now lives in Dublin but lived close to the site and worked on the creation of the park, said she liked that the branch library was within walking distance of surrounding neighborhoods.
“A lot of people who live in the area are immigrants,” she said, including a number who attend nearby Columbus Centennial High School.
Wentzel said that although the general area has Antrim Park – Columbus Park near Worthington – and pocket parks, there is not a main focal point like this park will be.
“It will truly be a community hub. Something that will bring the entire Northwest community together,” Wentzel said.