COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Emergency funding approved by the Columbus City Council is paying for safety improvements on a busy stretch of the Olentangy Trail.
The 14.8 mile paved path follows the Olentangy River from Worthington to downtown Columbus, where it connects with several other trails. The Recreation and Parks Department estimates close to one thousand runners, walkers and bikers use the trail on a given day.
“Our trail infrastructure in the city, I would stack up against any other city. The Olentangy Trail is a very well-utilized trail,” said Elizabeth Brown, the president pro tem of the Columbus City Council.
Brown chairs the Recreation and Parks committee and sponsored an ordinance Monday to request more than $132,000 in emergency funding for safety improvements on a stretch of the trail.
The funding comes after outreach from people using the trail near the Harrison West neighborhood. Some raised concerns about increased foot and bicycle traffic between 5th and 3rd Avenues.
“There’s a lot of confusion sometimes. People have to kind of blow their little whistles and let people know they’re trying to pass,” explained Jason Barnett, who walks his two dogs on the trail almost daily.
The section sits adjacent to a 20-acre construction site and future home of the Founders Park mixed residential and retail development.
Brown explained the new development and investment in local infrastructure are mutually beneficial for promoting the city’s growth.
“It’s more attractive for economic development growth to be located by infrastructure like trails,” she said.
Funding approved Monday will reimburse work already done to widen the trail from nine to twelve feet. The developers for the Founders Park project completed the expansion while working on other construction nearby to avoid closing the path more than once.
“By doing these improvements now while the trail is closed for private construction, we are saving money,” Brown explained.
Neighbors said they were already noticing a difference.
“I think the wider path allows for both walkers and bikers to stay on their proper side at the same time. So the three extra feet is nice,” Barnett said.
The city also contributed $500,000, on top of a $2.1 million grant from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission to make improvements on a stretch of the trail crossing State Route 315 near Antrim Park. Brown estimates that portion of the project will be completed by August 12th.