UPDATED: This Week Community News : High grass, wildflowers stir up Parklands neighbors. 7/30/09
I had the educational experience of seeing civic government in action last week when I attended the 07/21/09 Worthington Parks and Recreation public meeting to update residents on the restoration of the Olentangy Parklands and Greenways.
I appreciated learning the 10 point Vision 2020 the Worthington Parks & Rec Director shared with the group (these are citywide, not just the Olentangy Parklands):
1. Dog Park
2. Complete bike trail transit connecting communities
3. mareting plan for parks and facilities
4. Outdoor pool and spray park
5. ‘Green’ buildings and upgrades on future projects
6. Tree replacements and new city tree policies
7. Alternative funding for projects
8. Nature Programming
9. Walking trails in parks separate from bike trails
10. community gardens (I’d like to suggest they include a kids dirt pile as part of the community garden)
In the meeting, there was sometimes heated discussion about the city’s decision to return some of the manicured grass area to a more natural grass and wildflower area which would facilitate re-population of the American Elm Tree.
In general the complaints against it were about aesthetics; concern about an increase in mice in homes near the park and questions of health concerns that may be impacted by ticks and mosquitos in the natural areas.
Many residents of Masefield spoke in opposition and presented a petition asking the city to mow the area immediately.
Several representatives spoke in favor of the natural restoration areas: Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed, a boy scout troop leader whose Scouts have done a lot to improve the area and some level of support was garnered from the Columbus Public Health Veterinarian.
I did visit the area under discussion for the first time since the restoration began and I share my observations here.
I think the natural areas look good, especially the wildflower restoration around Whitney park that is more of the intended effect. I think people just don’t like change. The wood chip path that runs parallel to the paved path is nice and was being used by many runners and dog walkers, so that could really help manage that super busy biking area between 161 and Wilson Bridge Park. This was my first glimpse at the 2 new bench areas with stone and landscaping, they are very nice, my one suggestion would be to add a garbage can nearby.
I apologize for the long post, but I wanted to share this scenario because it plays out in communities everywhere trying to balance the needs of individual property owners and the ecosystem of the cities parklands. It reminded me a bit too much of the NBC Comedy Parks and Rec. I hope that more people in favor of the grassland restoration will speak up. I think the improvements are positive and I hope they keep moving in that direction, despite opposition. Sounds like the biggest downfall was lack of communication upfront.
– Jody Dzuranin
Below is the full text of the article about the meeting. I could not link to the article directly.
ColumbusLocalNews.com – Worthington News
UPDATED: A growing problem?
Park’s tall grass bothers residents; city says it’s nothing to worry about
By MATT GERISH
Published: Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:55 PM EDT
Residents of Worthington had a chance this week to discuss their growing concern over changes to a neighborhood park.
Representatives of the city’s parks and recreation department met with residents Tuesday, July 21, to discuss concern over changes in maintenance at Olentangy Parklands. The skinny piece of public land runs alongside Masefield Street and the Olentangy bike trail between Dublin-Granville Road and Interstate 270.
The discussion became heated at times, with residents claiming the city’s plans for the park are leading to rodent infestations, missing household pets and growing populations of ticks and other pests in their own back yards.
The residents’ complaints revolve around patches of tall grass that have sprouted up throughout the park as a result of the city’s revitalization project there.
The project has been in the making for at least five years and is an attempt to revitalize the park since its opening in 1974, said Lynda Chambers, director of parks and recreation for the city of Worthington.
Chambers began her discussion with residents with an apology for not seeking greater input from them before the project moved forward.
That’s the step that I did not do, Chambers said after the meeting.
While neighboring residents generally approve of many of the plans for revitalization, they have expressed concern over plans for 3.73 acres of the approximately 103-acre park.
Recent plans for the park include the restoration of American elm trees.
This year, Chambers and the parks department created the first of what it hopes will be many meadows with an American elm planting and wildflowers.
Some other grassy areas of the park have been left unmowed in patterns to establish the parameters for the remainder of the project.
Around 3.73 acres are earmarked for a return to these natural grass stands and wildflower areas.
Residents along Masefield Street have complained that those unmaintained areas, especially those abutting their property lines, have become a menace to public health.
Masefield Street resident Wanda Davis brought a petition to the meeting that included 200 signatures of residents whom she said are concerned over the changes to the parklands.
Chambers said she did not expect the reaction or concern to be so great over just three acres of land.
I didn’t ever mean to rile the residents, Chambers said after the meeting. We’ll work through this to get the best results for the neighbors of the park and the users of the park.
Davis has said the unmaintained areas are perfect breeding grounds for ticks, which carry lyme disease.
She also said several household pets have gone missing recently and she pointed to an increase in animal predators that the park’s changes have brought as a possible link.
Masefield Street resident Janet Hilliard said the patches of grass have led to increases in the area’s population of rodents, which seem to be finding her way into her house.
Hilliard said she trapped at least 12 mice in her house in the last week.
I’m a nature lover, a tree hugger and everything else, but this has got to end, Hilliard said.
Chambers said from what she has been told, the patches of grass should not cause any health concerns.
Davis and Chambers both have said they have had conversations with sources at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who support their arguments.
Aaron Messer, public health veterinarian for the city of Columbus, said the grassy areas in Olentangy Parklands could pose some health concerns if they were bigger ‘“ but I didn’t see it in the small strips of land that had been cut out, he said.
Messer said the patches of grass pose little risk for harboring mosquitoes because they contain no standing water and that their risk for increasing tick-related illness is minimal.
He said there have been just four confirmed cases of lyme disease in Central Ohio since 2006.
He also said the areas should not cause any significant increase in the rodent population.
This week’s meeting was solely for informational purposes and no decisions were made, but Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Phil Miller said it’s never too late to make changes.
Chambers said the meeting was productive and she would discuss possibilities for the park with Worthington City Manager Matt Greeson.
Davis said she planned to continue to push for change.
I’m unhappy about how they don’t seem to be listening, she said.