City plans bike trail hub for West Side

on Saturday, 23 August 2014.

“crown jewel” of a 330-mile bike trail

Chris Haydocy looks at the West Side and sees a future in which young people are buying houses and businesses and returning to long-shuttered vacant properties.

The catalyst for that resurgence, the auto dealer says, is what he hopes will be the “crown jewel” of a 330-mile bike trail between Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Planners the city hired are designing a hub that could be the center of activity on the Camp Chase Trail, a path that will connect the West Side to Downtown and link the Ohio-to-Erie trail through Columbus.

The hub will be built on an undeveloped 47-acre parkland the city acquired about 15 years ago on Wilson Road south of W. Broad Street.

It’s a vision that’s been three years in the making. Haydocy and his Weston Vision board released mockups of a station in 2011 to gather support.

“This can be a focal point for the city,” said Jody Dzuranin, a Consider Biking member.

“We really want this to be welcoming to a community that lives locally and the community of travelers that will come to this place and get their first impression of Columbus.”

The city is paying about $42,000 to WSA Studio to design the hub, said Alan McKnight, director of the Recreation and Parks Department.

The city already has plans to level part of the park, which has some wetlands, to make way for athletic fields.

The design, however, is still up in the air. The city and architects have held public meetings to gather input, but McKnight said the department has yet to create a budget for the project.

“I think it will start as something fairly simple and develop as a concept that can be phased in over time,” he said.

A presentation architects gave in July shows three phases of development. The first would include parking, recreation fields, shelters with picnic tables and grills, bike racks, a repair station and a playground.

Later phases would add public restrooms, changing rooms, storage facilities along with space for concessions, cultural events and nature observation areas.

“It’s such a unique and unorthodox way to revitalize a challenged area, but it absolutely is working for us,” Haydocy said.

When it’s finished, the Camp Chase Trail will snake more than 11 miles east from Wilson Road in Madison County to near Galloway Road in Franklin County. Columbus and Metro Parks are building sections of the trail.

“I think it’s a good thing for the West Side,” said Bea Murphy, 75, a Westgate resident. “We just sort of need things out here.”

Haydocy expects the hub to be a boon for local restaurants and the Hollywood Casino that sits across the Camp Chase Trail line from the park. Trail users from as far as Cincinnati and Cleveland could patronize local establishments and boost business, he said.

Casino operators aren’t expecting much bicycle traffic from the trail, but they support the project, said Bob Tenenbaum, a casino spokesman.

A residential neighborhood that separates the proposed hub from the casino limits access to the trail.

“What’s good for us is anything that’s good for West Side development,” he said.