Greenspace Planning for the Lower Olentangy Watershed


Greenspace Plan for the Lower Olentangy Watershed

FLOW and our project partners are working to create detailed maps of the greenspace and openspace in our watershed.  Thanks to a Columbus Foundation grant, FLOW’s greenspace project is underway.  We are 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 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.

Grow with the FLOW


One of the many ways we are aiming to enhance the health of the Olentangy Watershed is through campaigning for the planting of native trees! Our goal is to partner with the Olentangy Watershed community and have everyone planting and caring for trees. We hope to accomplish this by providing education, ensuring you live in the Olentangy Watershed, and offering free native trees and shrubs. To claim a FREE TREE, please go to the registration page by clicking HERE or by clicking “Grow with the FLOW” above. Registration is open through March 29th, 2019.


FLOW maintains an Urban Tree Nursery growing a variety of species for a free giveaway and planting within the Olentangy Watershed. Our next giveaway will be hosted March 30th, 2019.

Species below are growing at the Urban Nursery and are linked to ODNR’s forestry website for more information:

New Study on Fish and Habitat Quality on Olentangy River and Tributaries

Locations for fish sampling and habitat quality evaluation.

Locations sampled for the 2016 Olentangy River & Tributaries Fish & Habitat


A recent study of the Olentangy River and two tributaries in Delaware County finds the river mainstem meeting biological criteria for fish communities, but the two tributaries falling short.  The study, conducted by Mark Dilley of MAD Scientist Associates in October 2016, reports that the stream health measures for the mainstem have remained stable relative to sampling conducted in 2003 by Ohio EPA at locations upstream and downstream of the study site.

The consistent fish community scores for the mainstem site may be the result of positive water quality and habitat improvements off-setting potentially adverse effects of increasing rates of development in this region of Delaware County, according to Dilley. The positive water quality improvements Dilley identifies include the recent removal of two low-head dams in the area, riparian setbacks that were put into effect, and improved sediment and erosion control practices at construction sites.

Dilley, a professional wetland scientist and certified senior ecologist, worked with Laura Fay and Marci Bird of Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) to develop the study plan.  The sampling was conducted in early October by Dilley, Aaron Laver and Jacob Zink of MAD Scientist Associates, and Joe Bevan a FLOW volunteer.  Dilley has provided FLOW with the results and findings to help FLOW track water quality trends in the Olentangy River and its tributaries, and to better manage and protect these areas.

The study’s objective was to evaluate the current health of stream habitat within segments of the Olentangy River tributaries and mainstem. Stream health was determined by surveying the fish community using Ohio EPA sampling methodologies, and scoring the results using Ohio EPA’s Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) and Modified Index of Well-Being (MIwb; wading sites only).  The condition of the stream and riparian habitat at the sampling sites was surveyed using the metrics of the Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI). The use by Dilley of the same sampling and evaluation methods used by Ohio EPA, allows for direct comparison with past sampling and future stream studies conducted by Ohio EPA.  Tables 2 and 3 in the report compare Dilley’s results with Ohio EPA’s 2003 results for nearby mainstem sites, as well as a comparison with other tributaries.  We at FLOW appreciate that this study gives us a much needed glimpse at the current conditions in the watershed.  


Results of 2016 Sampling for Fish Communities and Habitat Quality
Stream Name River Mile QHEI IBI/(Miwb)
Olentangy River

Sample Reach 1

22.9 72.25 44 (7.7)


Sample Reach 2

0.2 61.25 26


Sample Reach 3

0.0 44.25 38
* MIwb only applicable to mainstem (wading) site

An IBI score of 40 is needed to meet biological criteria for a wading stream, that is designated warm water habitat.   This table was excerpted from Table 2, 2016 Olentangy River & Tributaries Fish & Habitat Surveys,  Dilley.  


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

Ackerman Ponds Transformation

ackermanpondThe Ackerman Ponds show how quickly a goose-infested area can be turned into a destination for butterflies and honey bees. Constructed in 2010-2011, the two grass and stone ponds were part of the storm water facilities for the Ohio State University’s Woody Hayes Athletic Complex. The stone slows the storm water flow, prevents erosion, and encourages particles to settle out of the water.

Though designed to be dry between rains, the Ackerman Ponds were often full of water due to a persistent leak from an adjacent water main. This submerged and distressed the lawn grasses and became a nesting area for Canada geese. In addition to being a nuisance, Canada geese droppings degraded the retained water. Once the water main was fixed, the water receded and the geese left, but the distressed vegetation had to be addressed.

In 2014, volunteers from Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) and WOSU planted native forbs, grasses, two hackberry trees and one burr oak tree. Ohio State Facilities Operations and Development – Landscape Services planted an additional dozen native trees from the School of Forestry’s greenhouse. These trees included oak, locust, cherry and hickory, among others.

After one year, the native foliage has grown at an impressive rate. In addition, the native perennial flowers have already begun to attract butterflies and honey bees. These ponds continue to provide stormwater retention, and the plants help filter the stormwater and provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Thanks to Lush Cosmetics for funding for this exciting project.

What is a Watershed? How can we Monitor its Health?

Public Meeting
Location: Veritas Community Church
345 E. 2nd Ave., Columbus
When: 7:15-8:30pm, April 4, 2016

During this meeting, you will learn what a watershed is, how they function and how we, the people, can affect the health of a watershed. We will also introduce FLOW’s Water Steward Program, which we are carrying out with the support of partners at Ohio Water Resources Center and the Sierra Club. We will learn about the different components of the program including the water chemistry testing and macroinvertebtrate sampling that our volunteers will perform.

If you are participating in the Water Steward Training Program, this course is optional. If you are not interested in macroinvertebrate sampling, this meeting and training is not required. This meeting will provide insight into the kind of time commitment that will be required of you and your team (1-2 hours, 3 times per year), an overview of the sampling and identification process, and how all the data will be compiled and used at FLOW.

If you wish to do Macroinvertebrate Sampling and are unable to attend this meeting, please let us know and we will send you information regarding the in-field training.