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What does the Future Hold for Parks and Recreation in Columbus?

Walker Evans Walker Evans What does the Future Hold for Parks and Recreation in Columbus?Bicentennial Park — Photo by Walker Evans.
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We love our parks in Columbus, but we also love making improvements and updates to things. And according to research from the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks, we have some room for improvements.

Local landscape architecture MKSK Studios was recently tapped to lead a master planning effort for the City of Columbus Recreation and Parks Department that takes a wider view of our existing greenspace assets and explores ways to better them all throughout the city.

“Every ten years the parks master plan is reassessed to see where the department is and where there are things that can be done better,” explained MKSK Senior Associate Andrew Overbeck. “MKSK facilitated workshops this past winter to gather public input. We were able to start to get some consistent stories on where we could make improvements.”

According to ParkScore — an indexing tool created by The Trust for Public Land — Columbus parks rank 37th in the US when measured by total acreage, investment and maintenance spending, and ease of access to the general population. Our parks make up a total land area of 7.8% of the city (10,847 acres), which is around half of top rival Austin — which is home to nearly three times the park space with 29,225 acres.

“Acquiring new land is expensive,” explains Overbeck. “There’s certainly some quantity issues that need to be addressed, but there’s also quality issues that need to be looked at as well. All improvements cost money, but at the end of the day it all gives a stronger advocacy position for the department to provide for these things.”

To better evaluate the entire city-wide park system, the map was broken down into five regions: North, Central, Southwest, Southeast, and “In Town” (Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods). Each area was studied individually based upon existing parks, types of parks, bike/pedestrian trail systems and connectivity, community centers, population densities, and ratios of parkland per resident.

The creation of a top-tier parks system is important to the City of Columbus as studies have found that they improve physical and mental development for children, improve healthy lifestyles and reduce health risks, provides a natural pollution control system and provide a higher quality of life, which in turn yields a higher economic rate of GDP growth.

A public input session is open tonight at the Martin Janis Senior Center at 600 East 11th Avenue from 6pm to 8pm. Residents are invited to attend and weigh in on the findings and recommendations for the master planning effort.

For more information, visit www.columbus.gov.


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