By KERSTIN CARR
Published in This Week Community News
As someone who grew up in Europe, one of the questions I am often asked is, “What do you miss most about Germany?”
And my answer always is, “Besides my family, I miss having the ability to get around without a car.”
I moved to the United States at age 27. Prior to relocating, I had lived on my own for eight years without owning a car. Thanks to options in my region, I was able to travel within it by foot, bike or bus and between regions by train.
However, when I moved to central Ohio, there were not a lot of multimodal transportation options available, so, reluctantly, my first major purchase was a car.
That said, I love being out on our local and regional trails and parks. Our waterways and greenways are an incredible asset to the region.
This past year, these greenspaces have become a refuge for so many of us to socialize safely and spend time outdoors.
Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks alone saw a more than 30% increase, on average, for park visitors.
And community surveys continuously show that people value outdoor spaces and want more of them – and more connections to them.
Luckily, we have two major initiatives that speak to this demand: Central Ohio Greenways and RAPID 5.
Central Ohio Greenways
In 2018, the Central Ohio Greenways board put forth an exciting vision to add 500 more miles to the region’s trail network. When completed, it will serve as the backbone to a strong multimodal transportation network.
The region’s trail vision is built upon the premise that every resident deserves equitable access to trails and greenspaces.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case today. Many of our neighborhoods lack access, or safe access, to our 230-plus miles of regional trails. They could be linked to the trail network with more sidewalks, paths and bike lanes.
MORPC, together with its partners, recently completed an analysis to prioritize trail investments based on equity, connectivity, health and environmental concerns, with a goal to ignite the completion of many much-needed east-west connections.
In addition to building out a regional trail network, the Urban Land Institute Columbus District Council partnered with MORPC to lead a high-scale visioning exercise of how our river corridors could be reimagined to develop the largest interconnected greenspace system in the country.
Five design firms created visuals and high-level planning documents for each of the five river corridors: Big Darby, Scioto, Olentangy, Alum Creek and Big Walnut.
Although a full reveal of the RAPID 5 initiative will not take place until July 21 at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum, I had the privilege to get a sneak peak of these designs. They are incredibly thoughtful, intentional and creative, and they provide many ideas for not only activating and adding to greenspace, but also for connecting these spaces to neighborhoods and transit lines while proposing cultural and affordable places.
It is exciting to know that these bold visions are supported by both public and private entities throughout the region.
As we work to implement these future visions, we must make sure that we are being inclusive of everyone in our community. If we plan for others, we must plan with them.
We believe that inclusivity is critical to the prosperity and sustainability of our region. Only through inclusion will we be able to create opportunities for equitable access to greenspaces and a multimodal transportation system.
Kerstin Carr is the director of planning and sustainability at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. MORPC’s purpose is to bring communities of all sizes and interests together to collaborate on best practices and plan for the future of the region.