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Scioto Audubon Metro Park Brings Nature to the City

By Mark Kline
Principal - Kinzelman Kline Gossman




Adaptive reuse was applied to the former Lazarus warehouse slab for the Central Activity Area. The climbing wall was a Design Build project to provide a variety of challenges and opportunities for a wide range of user age groups with varying skill levels and abilities.


For over two decades, the city of Columbus and various governmental agencies and civic associations realized and identified the Scioto River Corridor as a significant natural resource that unifies diverse land use developments along its reach. As a result of numerous planning study initiatives, in the Spring of 2003 a Memorandum of Understanding was established that brought a greater focus on the potential redevelopm ent of underutilized, abandoned and environmentally-impacted properties along the riverfront to promote a balanced initiative of appropriate and diverse community development and ensure greater public accessibility to the river through open green space preservation.

One model project that met all of these criteria was the Whittier Peninsula, a 160-acre site that anchors the riverfront greenway study area. Undoubtedly one of the more challenging and aggressive riverfront redevelopment undertakings, the development of Whittier Peninsula has evidenced itself a significant community redevelopment initiative that has far-reaching public and private benefits.




The northern tier wetlands represent the creative, adaptive reuse of a large, contaminated area. This picture demonstrates how they have become both a diverse habitat and an aesthetic and naturalizing feature within the park.

 



Planning Stages
From 2004-2005, the Metro Park-led 'Partnership' of the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks District, City of Columbus Recreation and Parks and Audubon Ohio came together to synthesize their individual goals and objectives into a strategic vision to reclaim, redevelop and revitalize the Whittier Peninsula, a former landfill, industrial park and rail yard on the edge of the Columbus Downtown Business District. Over a one-year period the vision, individual goals, objectives and special needs were synthesized into a strategic implementation plan significantly influenced by the preservation and protection of natural resources comprising the peninsula's unique riverine ecosystem, existing environmental conditions and remediation options for an eventual 'green' redevelopment.




This aerial photograph illustrates the Whittier Peninsula's proximity to Columbus' downtown business district as well as its adjacency to the Brewery District and German Village historic districts.


An independent market-based study led to a proposed mixed use scenario that would support a non-traditional metro park fully integrated into various residential types. The core metro park would accommodate an extensive wetland and emergent marsh cells to meet the stormwater needs of the proposed private development and provide passive, natural resource-based recreation opportunities for residents and residents from the surrounding urban neighborhoods. In 2006, out of this visioning process, came a Master Plan specifically for a new and regionally unique natural area urban park development on 80 acres of the peninsula. The new Scioto Audubon Metro Park was born. The Design Team was led by the Columbus-based planning and design firm Kinzelman Kline Gossman in collaboration with Columbus-based Burgess & Niple who provided all environmental engineering and remediation services for this extensive brownfield redevelopment project. Additional coordination with a host of multijurisdictional and governmental agencies led to a plan to remediate, reclaim and revitalize this blighted and industrial brownfield site.




As the wetlands mature, this area will start to provide a greater diversity of spaces and experiences within the park.

Park Development Goals
Goals and objectives were established early on in the park development design process:

  1. Reclaim and conserve the special natural, cultural and historic resources of the site.
  2. Create opportunities for inclusive development for use by all age groups and demographics.
  3. Provide areas of special interest, unique recreation opportunities and activities geared to targeted users groups consisting of young professionals, urban youth and families.
  4. Establish a living laboratory and educational opportunity, telling a story of what the peninsula once was and what it will become in the future.
  5. Natural habitat restoration to further enhance the mission of Audubon Ohio and Audubon Center initiatives
    Environmental impacts and physical unknowns associated with past, unregulated land use development greatly influenced both the design approach and implementation of the park. The following principals have guided the evaluation of every design and development decision:
  • Reclamation and Restoration
  • Influence Environmental Awareness
  • Preservation and Resource Management
  • Urban Integration and Contextual Enhancement
  • Sustainability
  • Promote LEED(R) / Green Building Initiatives
  • Community Connectivity
  • Public Art Integration




A reconditioned and refurbished water tower provides viewing and observation decks from a central location and is a landmark piece from adjacent interstate highways.

Engaging federal, state and local agencies and community stakeholders was instrumental to the environmental permitting and review and approval processes and to securing funding for this brownfield redevelopment initiative.

The success of restoring the peninsula was only possible with the involvement of a host of agencies including the Ohio EPA, USEPA and Ohio Department of Development for first tier environmental approval, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Department of Development and Ohio Department of Natural Resources for second tier implementation and City of Columbus departments and Brewery District Commission at the local level. $1.5 million in state and federal funding assistance has been secured through programs including the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund and Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund and USEPA brownfield assessment and cleanup grants. The project has been a model for other communities in restoring misused and abandoned sites.




A hierarchy of trails traverse the park and were designed with specific materials to delineate pedestrian movement and program use areas. Aggregate walking paths, boardwalks and paved multi-use trails connect to the regional bikeway system and provide multiple points of urban access to features within the park.

Sustainability And Reuse
Sustainable design features within the Metro Park are integral to its design. The entire metro park is composed of an extensive wetland system. Over time the wetlands have matured and sustained themselves with stormwater runoff and native plantings. Bioswales were integrated in to the natural topography to aide in stormwater management and sustain the natural ecosystem. At the Boat Ramp, a primary viewing access point within the park, stormwater is diverted into a bioswale system before it outflows to the river. And as with previous Metro Park projects, existing materials from this once industrial site were re-used on site and recycled off site.




Improved river access facilities to increase safe public water-oriented recreation opportunities were introduced as part of that project.


Discovering appropriate adaptive re-uses from the existing industrial 'fabric' was a key factor to minimize development costs and remain environmentally conscious with every detail. Roadways were downsized and surfaces modified to accommodate a hierarchy of trail systems and service and emergency access needs. The Central Activity Hub; which accommodates more intense, active recreation facilities and parking, re-uses a portion of the Lazarus warehouse concrete slab that once covered the site. It has become a place where children of all ages, from youth to the young urban professional, can enjoy the climb on play equipment or a 35' tall climbing wall--the largest of its kind in the region to offer enthusiasts the opportunity at no cost. An existing water tower, once an eyesore within the site, was given new life with color and a 'birds eye' view of the park complete with an observation deck for watching great blue heron, mourning doves and other species of wild birds. Buildings were removed at cost to the owner because of the high value, recyclable steel members. Roadway pavements, brick facades, concrete slabs and foundations were stockpiled, processed and used as base material for many new improvements. Highly contaminated, impacted soils were excavated and removed from the site; many of these depressions were reconfigured to create wetlands and meet initial stormwater management requirements.




This perched clean water wetland and boardwalk serve as an educational and land lab study area for both the Metro Park and Audubon Center.


The master plan was also significantly influenced by the peninsula's position within a unique riverine ecosystem along the Scioto River/Greenlawn Dam Area. The area is a nationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA) for migratory birds traveling from Central and South America. Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks and the City of Columbus working with Audubon Ohio selected the area to establish the regions first Audubon nature center. The Grange Insurance Audubon Center is a certified LEED(R) Gold facility. Everything about building and site is a lesson in sustainable development and conservation through the use of innovative 'green' technologies. Site and building development are engaged as one integrated educational environment. A story of sustainability is told as green roof stormwater outlets into an entry courtyard rain garden, through a filtering wetland and finally into a lower level bioswale. Porous concrete in the parking bays filters stormwater into a lush bioswale leading to the Center.

Together the facility, the site and a network of boardwalks and wetlands, offer a dynamic learning lab for inner-city youth programs and school groups.




On five acres within the Metro Park, the Grange Insurance Audubon Center represents a catalyst for change connecting urban youth with the natural environment. Responsible stormwater management begins with a green roof that flows into an entry courtyard rain garden and pond/wetland. Sustainable practices include pervious hardscaping, native Ohio Xeriscaping and geothermal well fields.

Plan Comes To Fruition
In 2009, Kinzelman Kline Gossman, working with Metro Parks and the City of Columbus, was responsible for leading the design, documentation and construction of over $1.75 million in park improvements. Park amenities include an aviary habitat observation deck, a landlab wetland environs with boardwalk trail, a climbing wall complex, restoration of a water tower and incorporation of observation decks, a hierarchy of trail systems, sand volleyball courts, open recreation athletic fields, a renovated boat ramp area with a new fishing pier, custom tensile shade structures, play equipment, picnic facilities, a dog park, parking areas and a parkwide signage/wayfinding system.

The Scioto Audubon Metro Park provides incredible diversity of passive and extreme recreational opportunities coupled with a full nature education experience for urban residents to enjoy. The vision for this unique urban park space will continue to evolve, with the first phase of development complete and additional recreational facilities planned for the future.




The design intent in the Central Activity Area was to create an urban playground that is transparent, modern and blends in with the surrounding site. The goal is to challenge children with multiple heights and angles, provide access to children of all abilities, and heighten creative play.

Firm Information
Kinzelman Kline Gossman is an established, multidiscipline landscape architecture, architecture and planning firm with offices in Columbus, OH, Covington, KY and Indianapolis, IN. There broad ranging project expertise includes large scale land use planning, all scales of park and open space planning, urban design and planning, corporate facility and campus planning, residential and amenity-based community planning and mixed-use facilities design.




The GIAC parking area is a fully functioning demonstration project that highlights various sustainable stormwater management systems that achieve minimal site runoff during storm events. Featured materials include porous concrete, permeable pavers, bio-retention with native vegetation and recycled/composite wood boardwalks.

Scioto Audubon Metro Park
Location: Columbus, Ohio -- Size: 80 acres--Year Completed: 2009

Scioto Audubon Matero Park Project Team
Redevelopment Partnership: Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks
Redevelopment Partnership: Alan McKnight, Director, Columbus Recreation and Parks
Redevelopment Partnership: Lori Baudro, AICP, Senior Project Coordinator, Columbus Department of Development, Planning Division
Redevelopment Partnership: Heather Stark, Director, Grange Insurance Audubon
Project Manager and Landscape Architect: Mark A. Kline, Kinzelman Kline Gossman
Civil and Environmental Engineers: Burgess & Niple Inc., Columbus, Ohio
Design Team Member: DesignGroup Inc., Columbus, Ohio
Electrical and Structural Engineers: Korda Engineering Inc., Columbus, Ohio


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November 18, 2019, 11:59 am PDT

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