I love living in the city of Columbus, do its fast pace and college-town feel. However, I also love living in Columbus for the innovative uses of nature throughout the city. After a long day at work, I was able to explore one of the amazing natural hotspots in Columbus, a mere mile from my house, at Glen Echo Park.
Within just a few blocks of High Street, the heart of Columbus, Glen Echo Park is found amidst a small, quaint neighborhood that embodies the small town feel that eludes many parts of big city Columbus. After driving by streets of cute houses with luscious lawns, I parked my car and headed down the steps that make up the entrance to Glen Echo Park. The park itself, while not huge in terms of acreage, allows you to feel totally disconnected from the hustle and bustle of city life while inside it. Intricately planned, the park totally blocks your view of the surrounding neighborhood, streets, and stores that surround it. Within the small park there are multiple waterfalls, an impressive stream, massive trees, an abundance of botanical life, and a wonderful pathway to explore with friends, pets, or by yourself. I personally visited the park as dusk approached, making it so that there were plenty of wildlife to be viewed. Some of the highlights included squirrels, a bunny, and many birds including Cardinals, mallards and, the highlight of the afternoon, an owl. I had the pleasure of viewing this beautiful bird a mere 10 feet away as it stood on a branch perusing the park. The neighborhood surrounding Glen Echo Park would truly be a great place to live, grow up, and start a family. As you can see on the map, the park is surrounded by central High Street and crucial Highway 71, but in my experience there, I had no sense of either in this nature getaway.
While I was at the park I had the opportunity to view a multitude of different trees shrubs and flowering plants. I quite enjoyed the challenge that comes with in the field plant identification, when your only tools are your senses and the field guides brought with you.
While I perused the trees throughout the park, I was happy to see a mix of both giant trees that were clear to see that they had been there for many years, and new trees that look newly planted. I was able to take a closer look at of the newly planted trees, and I discovered that it was an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). This tree does best in moist, well drained soil, which made its placement right next to the Glen Echo stream a perfect spot. Furthermore, multiple parts of the Redbud tree can be eaten! The flowers and buds contain antioxidants and vitamins while the seeds contain fatty acids and protein (Raver, 500).
This next tree certainly looks more established then the last, as it is clear that it has been growing in the park for decades. This tree turned out to be an American Silver Berry (Elaeagnus commutata), and I was quite impressed with its beautiful whorled leaf arrangement. American silverberries have been quite valuable to humans for thousands of years, as the bark from the tree is fibrous, making it an excellent material for ropes, baskets, and other tools (American Silverberry, n.d.).
I also spent time examining a few of the shrubs throughout the park. I was able to come across one shrub with the name of Swamp Forestiera (Forestiera acuminata) and another named Button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Swamp Forestiera has a multitude of ecological benefits, as the drupes it produces provides food for many birds, specifically waterfowl, is grazed upon by deer, and produces pollen used by bees. In contrast, while it is an aesthetically pleasing bush, Button bushes should be approached with caution, as they can be toxic! The bush contains cephalathin, a poison that can induce vomiting, paralysis, and convulsions.
Swamp Forestiera (Forestiera acuminata)
Button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
I also spent time searching for flowering plants, and was able to find quite a few of them. There are two examples in the pictures below. However, I wasn’t able to identify them correctly today, so I plan on going back and fully identifying them tomorrow, and will update this page. However, it was still great practice utilizing the field guide, and I hope to be successful tomorrow.
The last plant that I was able to identify is a very important one! This is the infamous poison ivy. Every nature lover should be aware of how to identify poison ivy to ensure that they remain safe. Its much more fun to be outside when you can avoid this major inconvenience! Its easy to see poison ivy, as the plant is a trifoliate, which means the leaflets are bunched in threes. Furthermore, the ivy’s roots are above the soil, and often wrapped around a tree trunk. The third trick to identifying poison ivy is by the white drupes the ivy produces.
I personally plan on returning to Glen Echo Park very soon, and hope that you readers will visit soon. I’ve found that many city’s parks departments have countless undiscovered natural gems throughout urban areas, so I strongly encourage you go out and find them!
Glen Echo Park: A Ravine Conservation Area (Interpretive Sign Assignment)
Last time I was perusing Glen Echo park, I noticed a sign that quickly caught my attention. Within a city, its always awesome to find nature hot spots, but I’d be lying if I said I had any understanding of city planning codes and regulations that designate certain areas as nature center. As you can see below, the sign clearly states that Glen Echo Park is a “Ravine Conservation Area”. When I saw this, I thought, “Awesome! I’m glad this area has been set aside by the government, but what the heck does that mean? How did it become a ‘conservation area’?” I think it would be incredibly helpful and easy way to create a connection between the Columbus city government and the people, if Glen Echo Park’s situation was further elaborated by an improved sign. While it excited me to know that there were protections upon the park, I was left wondering, how did this slice of nature come to be?
After some further research, I was able to discover the amazing people behind the preservation of this beautiful park. The Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum partnered with an organization “Friends of the Ravine: Glen Echo” (FORGE), which draws support heavily from the Glen Echo neighborhood, to advocate for the preservation of the ravine. When a certain property on the corner of Acadia Avenue and North High Street become available for purchase, a plan to reinvigorate the park began to take hold. When the property was purchased, preparations for a walking trail that would span the entirety of Glen Echo Park began, inspiring the rest of the work that would go into recreating a beautiful ravine park. This led to a multitude of substantial grants being obtained by FORGE, which are listed below, along with what the grants were used for.
$25,000 restoration grant from The Columbus Foundation in 2000, which restored a significant ravine slope that had been stripped of all understory growth.
$20,000 grant from The Columbus Foundation, which restored the south slope.
$4,200 grant from the NiSource Environmental Challenge Fund in 2003, which helped supply funds for educational outreach, native plant stock, and interpretive signage.
$10,855 award from The Columbus Foundation in 2005, for continuation of the south slope restoration
$5,830 of further funds from the NiSource Environmental Challenge Fund, the Clintonville Fund, and Keep Franklin County Beautiful organizations.
$3,500 form The Columbus Foundation in 2007, for the beautification of the east entrance and the reforestation of the south slope.
$6,400 in Neighborhood Partnership Grants in 2009 and 2011, for plantings to stabilize the slops of the ravine.
In my opinion, that’s an impressive amount of money to raise for the benefit of your community! It certainly stands a tribute to the dedication of the members of FORGE, The Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum, other organizations involved, and the community members who worked to secure and carry out the grants. But, luckily for the Columbus community, the work didn’t stop there. in 2006, The Glen Echo Neighborhood Civic Association (GENCA) registered as a non-profit corporation. This allowed the organization to work on behalf of the Glen Echo neighborhood residents to improve the quality of life, while protecting and preserving the neighborhood’s resources.
While I’ve done my best to summarize the great story, all of the information above came from an online booklet (linked here: https://glenechoravine.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/glen_echo_report.pdf) which describes in greater detail the process of creating the ravine conservation area. I would highly recommend you read further into the recent and impactful dealings of the Columbus community!
In my short time visiting Glen Echo Park, I have come to greatly appreciate the slice of pure nature it presents within a concrete jungle, and judging by the number of walkers, runners, bikers, pet walkers, and nature enjoyers I see in my visits, it seems a great portion of the community agrees. I have a learned a great deal from a few easy searches on Google, but most importantly, I have found inspiration in community building. Being able to see the end product of years and years of community building and work is inspiring. In controversial times like these, it is sometimes easy to give up on the process of societal building and change, but without that dedication and persistence, Columbus would not have the beauty of Glen Echo Park. And that would be a terrible shame. All who enjoy Glen Echo Park should know the story of the hard work and community cooperation that went into creating the beautiful ravine preserve! Which is why I think a new sign should be created, one that highlights the greatness that went into the parks preservation. And while rough, I’ve provided my own sketch of what I think the sign should entail below.