Mar 15, 2024 - News

We toured the next two Metro Parks opening in 2024

A parks director points at a rocky hill and trees.

Metro Parks executive director Tim Moloney points to a chasm created in 2022 by flood waters in an area of the future Great Southern Metro Park. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

The newest additions to the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park system will offer unique nature experiences nestled between quarries and industrial spaces.

Why it matters: The ongoing construction of Great Southern and Bank Run Metro Parks fulfill a pledge to build new parks following a successful 2018 levy campaign.

Driving the news: We toured the future park sites with Metro Parks executive director Tim Moloney, who emphasizes they are not yet open to the public.

  • The parks are expected to open by the end of 2024 and remain works in progress over the coming years.

The big picture: These are parks No. 21 and 22 in the Metro Parks system, which has recorded a sustained attendance spike since the start of the pandemic amid regional population growth.

Zoom in: A closer look at the two upcoming parks:

An overhead rendering of the future Great Southern Metro Park
The future site of Great Southern Metro Park off of South High Street. Image: Courtesy of the Metro Parks system

Great Southern Metro Park

The 50-acre site is a thin strip of land sandwiched between a quarry and shopping center off of South High Street.

  • It's a neighborhood with low tree canopy and few parks, making it a key investment in an underserved area, Moloney says.

Flashback: The land was once owned over a century ago by Samuel Hartman, a wealthy farmer and medicine manufacturer caught up in a major pharmaceutical scandal.

  • In recent years, it was the location of Columbus' Heer Park, which closed in 2021 due to safety and vandalism concerns. Illegal dumping remains an issue.
  • A nearby homeless encampment was evicted in 2022, though many people are still living on the site.
  • Moloney says park rangers are empathetic, warning of upcoming construction work and connecting unhoused individuals with social services.

A hidden gem: The park's wooded area along the Scioto River is a peaceful spot that will leave you shocked to be so close to bustling High Street, the outerbelt and a working quarry.

What's coming: Water recreation on the river, plus a trail connecting the neighborhood to the north with Scioto Audubon Metro Park and downtown.

An overhead rendering of Bank Run Metro Park.
The future site of Bank Run Metro Park, located off of Rohr Road near Obetz. Image: Courtesy of the Metro Parks system

Bank Run Metro Park

Two worlds meet at this spot near Rickenbacker airport, where a 100-acre park and even larger industrial park are both growing across the street from one another.

  • "Look!," Moloney shouted over the sounds of nearby warehouse construction, pointing to an eagle soaring above Big Walnut Creek.

State of play: Bank Run is located on the former site of YMCA's Hoover Y Park.

  • It's named not for a financial panic, but the rock taken from a nearby quarry. (Yes, the park system has been on a quarry kick of late.)

The intrigue: This will be unique for primarily serving as a private event space for company picnics and weddings, though its trails will be open to the public when available.

What's coming: Renovation of an old lodge and event venue, the latter of which will be rented out year-round.

  • Moloney expects water recreation on the creek and a scenic trail he wants to become a premier cross country course around an existing man-made lake.
  • The YMCA's legendary "Grand Daddy Slide" is also set to be rebuilt.
A view of a lake with some branches in the foreground.
The lake at Bank Run Metro Park.

What's next for the Metro Parks

Moloney is mainly focused on opening and expanding these parks, but is already keeping an eye on the future.

  • "We're always trying to stay one step ahead of the growth of Central Ohio," he tells us.

Threat level: It's a challenge not just to find new park space, but acquire it.

  • Metro Parks eyed one desirable site on the city's south side, but Google ultimately purchased it to build new data centers.

Yes, but: These projects show there are still opportunities both inside and outside of Route 270, especially when getting creative with the park layout.

Between the lines: Moloney still vividly remembers exploring Sharon Woods Metro Park on an elementary school field trip.

  • Now in charge of that park and nearly two dozen others, he feels responsible for offering great nature experiences to the next generation.
  • Driving to and from parks, he often stares out the window in search of a site for his next big project.
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