Harrison Park on Schedule for Summer Construction

By Matthew Williams

Harrison West will have a sparkling new gem by spring of next year. Having overcome numerous delays and hurdles, Harrison Park appears finally to be on horizon. Pending final approval by City Council and completion of the bid process, construction is scheduled to begin in July.

If all goes as planned, Harrison West residents will soon see heavy equipment grading the site, installing underground utilities and pouring sidewalks and foundations for the gazebo, sculptures and playground—three of the main features of the park. Once this underground work is complete, the next phase of the Olentangy River Trail will be extended through the park and the playground will be installed. Lighting, tables, benches, waste receptacles and bike racks will follow during the summer along with the gazebo and the first two sculptures selected for Harrison Park. Grass, flowers, trees and shrubs will arrive in time for the fall planting season. By next spring, the lawn should be healthy enough for activity.

Fabrication of the gazebo will begin as soon as City Council signs off and should be complete in approximately three months. Rob Harris, Harrison West Society President and architect of Harrison Park, comments that “the Harrison Park gazebo will be a symbol of public gathering drawing visitors into the park. It is sited directly in line with West First Avenue and will sit on the foundation of the circular water tower that was once part of the factory that was razed in 2004. The gazebo will offer visitors to the neighborhood a view of the park and the banks of the Olentangy River. I designed the gazebo in a classic Tuscan form that recalls the Italianate period of architecture, which is integral to the design of many of the surrounding historic structures.”

In February 2009, Short North residents and business owners selected the first two of five sculptures planned for the park. Through a partnership with the Columbus College of Art and Design, student artists submitted proposals that were presented to the neighborhood. Mallory McClellan and Amanda C. Vandenberg were each awarded $3,000 in prize money for their winning designs. McClellan’s sculpture, Sycamore, replicates the stump of an ancient sycamore tree in stainless steel and echoes the sycamore trees found throughout Harrison West. Vandenberg’s Riparian is a free-form sculpture in powder-coated aluminum that epitomizes the successful marriage of built and natural environments. Fabrication of the sculptures will begin shortly, and the completed works will be installed during the summer. The Harrison West Parks Committee will be inviting another round of submissions from CCAD students this fall to commission the remaining three sculptures, which will be installed next summer.

“The Harrison West Reach Plan called for more park land and green space along the Olentangy River, and the Wagenbrenner condo development on the site of the defunct A.C. Humko plant offered us a chance to realize this dream,”

said Bob Mangia, Harrison West Parks and Green Space Committee Chair.

“The Harrison Park condo development presented an opportunity to have a large neighborhood park on the east side of the Olentangy. Our first committee meeting was held in November 2002, and all along we have worked side by side with the developer and the city, keeping in mind the needs of our changing neighborhood. One of our goals was to give the neighborhood and the city a park that would stand up to time. Connecting the park to the Olentengy Trail will truly make this a city park. I am excited that we are going out to bid in May and intend to start construction in the months following. Look for a fall planting and celebration in our newest city park.”

A generous playground will be another major draw for children and parents in the Short North neighborhoods. The playground features distinct areas for two to five-year-olds and for five- to twelve-year-olds. Elizabeth Cook, the Harrison Park Society Parks and Green Space Committee member who is heading up the development of the playground is excited to see Harrison Park and its child-friendly facilities nearing construction:

“A playground helps to center a park. It provides a point of interest, something to do, a place to go,” she said. “The playground brings families together—parents enjoy the beautiful park while their children are playing. We designed the playground to span the “childlife.” We envisioned toddlers developing fine and gross motor skills as well as social skills in their own safe zone, graduating to the bucket swings, then as older children (“children” of all ages), swinging on the belt swings. The playground in Harrison Park will help children and families in our community to create a lifetime of memories.”

Benches and tables located nearby will provide a place for parents to comfortably oversee play and to socialize.

Keep an eye on the property between Harrison Park Place and the Olentangy River. You should note some big changes by mid summer.

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