Greenspace Planning for the Lower Olentangy Watershed

Thanks to a Columbus Foundation grant, FLOW will be creating maps that show current greenspace preservation in the Olentangy watershed. This will include conservation easements, parks, areas preserved by private landowners, and other natural spaces that have been specifically set aside for preservation. The project should be completed in about 18 months.

The Olentangy River and valley is well recognized locally and beyond for its significance. While notable efforts have occurred over time in preserving it, development continues to diminish its grandness and vitality. The more comprehensive mapping funded by the Columbus Foundation will acknowledge the notable efforts of many to date, as well as indicate possibilities to further the preservation of the stream and valley. Presently there is no one data source that maps all the known natural green spaces.

FLOW’s partner organizations are Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, City of Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, Delaware County Regional Planning Commission, Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. They will work with the general public, public jurisdictions, and environmental organizations. GIS (Geographic Information Systems) will be used for mapping known preserved green spaces, as well as lack of preservation connectivity, and potential future linkages.

Area property owners will be invited to public meetings to receive information and give input. “The ripple effect of engaging people in the public process of preservation is huge,” notes Tom Ryther, FLOW member and project volunteer. “What is greenspace and why and how do we acquire it, where is it and how is it used? This includes little pockets of natural greenspace that are part of subdivisions’ homeowners’ associations, which will be included with those participating in the mapping and planning process”.

The expected further population growth here in Central Ohio and the Olentangy watershed gives FLOW this incentive to strengthen the preservation of this recognized and cherished landscape, now a historical remnant of that landscape that existed prior to contemporary growth.

Twenty Years of Progress

Celebration day, FLOW-style: FLOW and Anheuser-Busch folks started the day by planting a pollinator garden.

FLOW has now had twenty years of organizing, planning, planting, measuring and otherwise looking after the quality and safety of the Olentangy River.

You can see the results all around. Some of the important accomplishments:

  • Completing the Watershed Action Plan – only meant to be a five year plan, but still used today as a roadmap for the future. This entailed many meetings that got the community involved and connected with the river.
  • Improving water quality as a result of four dam removals.
  • Getting the Lower Olentangy Water Trail approved, which gives paddlers access points to the river and encourages enjoyment of the river and the natural areas around it.
  • Planting trees and native wildflowers all over the watershed, to provide habitat, reduce polluting runoff, and offer outdoor enjoyment for all.

It started in 1997 when Amanda Davey, just finishing at The Ohio State University, saw an article about watershed coordinators. She contacted the Ohio EPA and thus began the steps that formed Friends of the Lower Olentangy.

Using Amanda’s OSU contacts and Vince Mazika’s EPA contacts, the original email got an enormous response. They formalized the group as a 501c3 non-profit, set up a board of directors, put together a mission, and began monthly meetings with educational and business topics.

The early founders envisioned an organization that would be a clearinghouse for the river, and sustainable over the years. The decision was made to work together with partners rather than serve in an adversarial role.

“I am so impressed with what FLOW has done and how it has maintained itself, Amanda says. “The city uses the river as an asset now. The water quality is maintaining, which is good with all the development pressure up north.”

A grant allowed the group to hire Erin Miller as its first watershed coordinator. She served from 2000-2004, when the organizational foundations were established, membership was built, and the watershed plan was completed.

“Working for FLOW was one of the highlights of my career,” Erin says. “The board members are extremely involved, and always have been. They did GIS mapping, took photos that brought the river to life, helped with financial expertise.”

“It has always been a very reputable group, one that is science based and community focused. FLOW’s vision is for the community to be connected to an appreciative of the Olentangy River,” Erin explains.

Among the core group that started FLOW, and now enjoying the 20th anniversary: George Anderson, Joanne Leussig, Amanda Davey, Jennifer Fish, Russ Fish, Joe Motil.

Site Plan for Pollinators

Rusty Patched Bumblebee by Johanna James-Heinz.

We’ve heard it in the news, on social media, and through word of mouth that pollinator species have taken a hit. The Rusty Patched Bumblebee is on the endangered species list and many other bee populations are also in decline. Milkweed is wanted for monarchs and we can all do a little something to help out our pollinating friends. However, efforts on private property to incorporate pollinating species set off a few red alarms for county code inspectors. They are just doing their job when they chop down your beautifully planted pollinator patch and leave you bee-less and with a bill. This is because some species are seen as a fire hazard or are noted as “noxious weeds.” The city is changing their outlook on this code and is now acknowledging the use of pollinators as a horticultural improvement to your property. They do however, want to see that your garden is carefully planned. A site plan will help convince officers that the patch they see as “weeds” is actually an intentionally planted, cultivated, and cared for pollinator garden.

What Is It: A site plan is a document that details improvement specifications through drawing. It is a graphic representation of the buildings, parking, drives, landscaping, etc. of a development project. In terms of pollinator gardens, it should be detailed with specifications such as species and size. The links below will give you the tools to build your own personal site plan and cater it to your specific garden and its needs. If you receive a complaint that your garden is taller than 12 inches, you should call the Code Enforcement Division at 614-645-2202 and explain that your garden is intentionally cultivated and that you have a site plan.

Site Plan Instructions

Site Plan Building Tool

Sunny 95 Adopt-a-Pond Success!

~Written by Bob Fitchko

img_4780It was mid-October 2016 and a light fog was giving way to a crisp, clear autumn morning at the Sunny 95 Park and Pond in Upper Arlington, Ohio.   The daybreak was welcomed by a transient contingent of neighbors, joggers and dog-walkers.   A flock of Mallards casually cruised the pond.  A frisky canine viewed the waterfowl intruders.   The ducks and the furry, four-footer had a vocal exchange on the legal, though non-binding, water rights to the pond.  The debate was ruled a draw.  No harm, no “fowl”.   The avian delegation flew off; the domesticated mammal strutted away with its owner.  A representative snapshot of activity surrounding a local pond in the lower Olentangy watershed.    All creatures, large and small, human and not, can enjoy and benefit from a healthy aquatic environment.

The Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) has grant funding (designated the Adopt-A-Pond program) thanks to a generous grant from LUSH Cosmetics. This program will help to improve the habitat and aesthetics of local ponds through the planting of native (soil stabilizing) plants.   Multiple benefits of planting native vegetation include:  increase the health of the Olentangy watershed, increase the variety of plants and birds around the pond, support native pollinators, provide food and habitat for butterflies and moths, provide more color and blooms, and reduce bank erosion and the rate of pond sediment fill.

img_3061 The Sunny 95 Pond is located in the lower Olentangy watershed and was selected as a site to be included in FLOWs Adopt-A-Pond Grant program.  The pond is a one-third acre storm water retention pond centrally located within the 15-acre Sunny 95 Park development.  The park is located at the intersection of Windham Road and Carriage Hill Lane in Upper Arlington (UA).   The park is a result of a decade-past UA master development plan resulting in the demolition of Langston Park and construction of multiple family-oriented facilities at the site.  Completion of the new park area was opened to the public in 2010.

In early fall 2016, Laura Fay, FLOW Science Committee Chairman, and Steve Cothrel, Superintendent of Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department, The City of Upper Arlington, met on-site at Sunny 95 Park to discuss possible water quality enhancements to the Sunny 95 Pond.  The pond shoreline currently had a variety of plants and tall ornamental grasses around its banks.    However, a central fountain and resulting small wave action causes noticeable scouring and bank erosion.   Scouring is especially noted along the eastern edge of the pond, primarily due to the prevailing westerly-southwesterly winds common in central Ohio.  In addition, professional services for algae control and periodic dredging is part of planned maintenance for the pond in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

img_2492Mutual agreement was made by Laura and Steve to add an additional variety of native aquatic plants to the pond shoreline and to plant several native trees just beyond the pond landscape.  Lisa Metcalf, Horticulturist, Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department, The City of Upper Arlington, coordinated the selection and planting of plants and trees.

img_5521In mid-October, a trio of FLOW members and two staffers from The City of Upper Arlington, Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department, gathered at the Sunny 95 Pond to plant a variety of indigenous aquatic plants. Twenty-six native flora were selected and delivered on site by Gale Martin, Natives in Harmony, Marango, Ohio.  The list of botanicals included:

Asclepias incarnata (red/swamp milkweed), Eupatoriadelphius maculates (spotted joe pye), Hibiscus mosheutos (crimson-eyed rose mallow), Mimulus ringens (monkey flower), and Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush).   With shovels in hand, the new vegetation was planted at four different locations around the pond shoreline.


Danielle and Sarah planting pond plants


Bob delivering plants to Lisa for planting

img_2596In late-October, FLOW and UA Parks and Recreation Department staff met again.  This time the group convened to add several trees to the park landscape just southwest of Sunny 95 Pond.   Three native trees were selected from Willoway Nurseries (aka Premier Plant Solutions):   Betula nigra (river birch), Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak), and Quercus rubra (northernred oak).  The two oaks had a sturdy 3-4 inch caliper trunk thickness.   The river birch exhibited multiple 1-2 inch trunks from its base root ball.   The trio of trees was 12-15 feet in height.   With strong mind and body, holes were dug, tree root balls set in place, and surrounding rings of mulch spread.  As the trees flourish and grow, they should provide additional shade to the pond.

img_2616                Special thanks to FLOW members Laura, Danielle, Bob and UA Parks & Forestry, Parks and Recreation Department personnel Lisa, Sarah, Scott, Veronica, and Jim.   All contributed mightily in the joint effort to support FLOWs Adopt-A-Pond project and planting of the aquatics and trees at the Sunny 95 Pond.

To date, the FLOW Adopt-A-Pond grant program has enhanced water quality and public awareness for multiple ponds in the lower Olentangy watershed.  The Sunny 95 Pond project is one of the latest.  FLOW has limited additional funding for this program and has recently reached out to local pond owners.  The non-profit is seeking several additional participants interested in partnering with FLOW to add nature’s beauty and its benefits to their aquatic ecosystems.

Trees and Pond Plants making a difference at Sunny 95 Pond in Upper Arlington

Trees and Pond Plants making a difference at Sunny 95 Pond in Upper Arlington



The Enemy Among Us

This summer, Ohio residents will be living among the types of mosquitos that spread Zika and West Nile viruses.
Zika has been linked to serious birth defects. It is not known whether Zika will arrive in Ohio this year, although the mosquitos that spread it are expected to be here.
West Nile often has mild or no symptoms, but it can cause neurological damage in some individuals.
You can conduct your war against these unwelcome attackers by denying them the standing water they need to reproduce. This is by far the most effective way to reduce the number of mosquitos.

Rain Barrels

If you live in the City of Columbus and got a rain barrel through Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District’s GreenSpot program, you can get free rain barrel water treatment through Columbus. You should be contacted within a few weeks and offered 180-day treatment for your rain barrel. If you are not contacted, you can check your eligibility by calling 614-645-6153 or emailing
You can also buy Mosquito Dunks, Mosquito Bits, or similar products that will interrupt the mosquito life cycle. These are harmless naturally-occurring bacteria.
In the absence of these controls, use up the water in your rain barrel at least once a week. It takes 7-10 days for the eggs to become mature mosquitos.

Backyard Ponds
You have a couple of options for your pond:
• Koi are too large to eat mosquito larvae, but goldfish and guppies will do the job and will get along well with your other fish.
• Mosquitos require shallow or still water, so consider adding a waterfall or fountain.
• Use Mosquito Dunks, Mosquito Bits, or similar products.
Other Containers
Empty the following at least once a week:
• birdbaths
• vases
• pet water bowls
• flowerpot saucers
• discarded tires
• buckets
• pool covers
• birdbaths
• trash cans