RAPID 5 plan for connecting metro parks has focus on equity


The Columbus District Council of the Urban Land Institute, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and several area design firms have developed a vision to give all communities equitable access to the water ways that span Central Ohio.

The RAPID 5 effort started in 2019, but was temporarily put on hold during the pandemic, said Keith Myers, vice president of administration and planning for the Planning and Real Estate department at Ohio State. In January of this year, Myers said he reached out to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and got the ball rolling again to brainstorm ways to connect the region’s five riparian corridors in Franklin County.

After getting public input, five design firms put together a vision for improving and connecting the region’s green spaces, from Big Darby to Alum Creek to Big Walnut.

MKSK, Realm Collaborative, AECOM, NBBJ and Edge explored what a more connected park system could look like, adding trails, creating new parks and highlighting the history of places along the rivers. This vision will be shaped into a plan by the community, Myers said.

The firm’s ideas were to be presented at a Columbus Metropolitan Club meeting Wednesday evening.

“What these firms have offered is a vision of the future,” Myers told Columbus Business First. “These firms have given us a lot to think about.”

“This is raised expectations,” said William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. “And what I mean by raised expectations is, this isn’t just about bike trails. Those are important, but if you look at these visions, some of these are world-class, enormous ideas. And to do that, and to even contemplate that here, you got to get people excited about it. You got to raise their expectations to tackle things like equity, you got to see the vision and you got to see how to connect it.”

Murdock said there is a lot of work to be done, but he is hopeful there will be a lot of public participation with cities, townships and villages, as well as business leaders.

“I believe Central Ohio can do anything. We can’t be afraid of big ideas,” Myers said. “If we go through this process, we are going to create a greenway and a trail system that will impact Central Ohioans for decades.”

If completed and developed, the hope is that this RAPID 5 plan would turn Central Ohio’s Metro Parks into a Midwestern Napa Valley or Finger Lakes region and be a draw for tourism, too.

“Denver has mountains. We have this greenway system, but ours is actually woven throughout the community. So in Denver, you got to get in the car, and you got to drive. Here, what we’re talking about, this would be a mile and a half from everybody in Franklin County,” Murdock said.

“There’s some low hanging fruit that each of that firms has identified,” Myers said of the newly revealed plan. “It could be as simple as building a trail or community volunteers on a weekend start by building a trail. It’s just going to accumulate over time, these projects will build on one another.”

Here’s are some of the ways the participating firms thought about their work:

  • Jeffery Pongonis, principal at MKSK, said his firm worked on a plan for the Olentangy corridor and its adjacent neighborhoods. “We focused on equity and connections with a priority of connecting all Central Ohio to these healthy river assets and to these activity centers, thinking specifically about our disadvantaged neighborhoods and celebrating neighborhoods like Linden, the Hilltop and Franklinton,” Pongonis said.
  • Tim Skinner, principal with Edge, focused on ideas to improve and interconnect the Big Walnut Corridor. Some of Edge’s ideas include making Lockbourne Village, which was founded in 1830’s as part of the Ohio to Erie Canal system, a cultural center and a destination along the river.
  • Realm Collaborative Principal and co-founder Brian Berstein said his firm’s ideas for the Big Darby Corridor involve making a more rural area connected to the park system. The new LinkUs Columbus bus route will extend toward the corridor and allow those without other transportation to explore Battelle Darby Metro Park.
  • Michael Bongiorno, vice president and managing principal at AECOM, said the basis of AECOM’s ideas was to highlight “hidden gems” along Alum Creek. Alum Creek was actually a significant stop along the Underground Railroad, Bongiorno said. In addition to the outreach done by ULI and MORPC, AECOm had six visioning workshops with stakeholders along the corridor and created a survey that was more specific to the Alum Creek corridor to get more feedback on what people would like to see.
  • Kim Way, director of urban design and planning at NBBJ, said the nucleus of her firm’s work was on improving connectivity from the river to existing attractions along the Alum Creek corridor, like COSI, Griggs Dam and Dublin’s Bridge Park.

Murdock said the main goal of these ideas is to give communities ideas on how to eliminate barriers and open up the river to more people than currently have access.

“We’re not only concerned that disadvantaged neighborhoods and residents won’t be a part of it, but we’re super focused in a whole variety of ways about how this work can positively impact folks that need help,” MKSK’s Pongoinis said. “There are park deserts and there is tree inequity. There are a lot of social issues that these things can help solve.”

Murdock said the business community should be especially interested in how these ideas shape up.

“This isn’t the local government parks project,” Murdock told Business First. “It’s also public private partnerships, it’s development opportunities, it’s small businesses opening up along the trails. It’s the whole gamut of really plugging into Central Ohio’s growth and business development.”

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