Nature lovers and hundreds of workers who soon will move into Whitehall are going to dig a new parks plan in the works in the suburb east of downtown.
Thousands of feet of new trails with access to water activity in Big Walnut Creek such as canoe launches, a new 3-acre pond, disc golf, meadows, prairies and reforesting are part of an updated plan for Whitehall Community Park.
Improvements and expansions to the current activity building also are in the works. Nearly $10 million will be spent on the project.
The expansion from 60 acres to 85 acres follows the closure of the Four Seasons Golf Center and driving range in Whitehall, which freed up the land. The dome site is 37.5 acres. Of that, 23.5 acres will go to usable public parkland and 14 acres will be developed.
The dome is still on site and was recently auctioned off via online auction. The buyer is currently working on relocating the dome elsewhere. Mayor Kim Maggard, in comments prepared for Columbus Business First, said the expanded park will benefit residents, visitors and employees of Whitehall businesses.
Those businesses include Heartland Bank, which is building a $10 million headquarters campus in the Whitehall park and Wasserstrom Co., which is moving 225 employees to the city. Both will open there before year's end.
“The opportunity to locate our headquarters next to a community park was one of several important factors as to why we chose Whitehall,” Scott McComb, president and CEO of Heartland Bank said in an email.
“Our employees cannot wait to take advantage of the walking paths and other amenities that will be a part of the expanded Whitehall Community Park.”
The park is located at Hamilton Road and Broad Street, an emerging corridor in the city where the $50 million Norton Crossing project is planned.
The park, which was built in the early 1990s, has been under-utilized. The overhaul and new business activity is expected to give it a boost. The city says it is poised to become one of Central Ohio’s largest urban oases inside I-270.
"Residents and visitors alike will have the opportunity to take advantage of such a large outdoor space," Maggard said.
The initial budget for implementing the plan is $9.6 million. The city has designated that all revenue generated from the Heartland site, which is being built on park land, and future development on 14 acres on East Broad, also part of the golf dome land, will go into a parks improvement endowment fund.
A market study found that the fund could generate more than $500,000 annually for new capital improvements.
The city plans to fund $1.4 million in the next six months for park improvements. Over the next year, plans will move forward to transform the activity building into a community center.
The new parks plan will be presented to Whitehall City Council Tuesday night.
This story originally appeared in Columbus Business First.