The area now known as the Webster Park subdivision was sold to Amason Webster (not “Amazon,” despite the street name) by the Rathbone heirs on May 29, 1846. Webster’s daughter Orell inherited the land upon his death in 1900. In 1909 she and her husband Lewis Legg subdivided the land, and the initial plat shows “Webster Park” at the 1.8 acre site now bounded by North Delta Drive, East Delta Drive, Webster Park Avenue and Olentangy Boulevard (the entire subdivision runs from High Street to Olentangy Boulevard, and from Erie Road to the edge of Whetstone Park).
The City Bulletin of May 8, 1926 records the transfer of this park plot to the city: ”Whereas, the tract…has been preserved in its natural state and protected as a wild bird asylum and wild flower preserve and it is well suited and adapted for such purposes…the same is hereby set aside…as a wild bird asylum and wild flower preserve. …The superintendent of parks…is hereby directed to maintain and protect the same as nearly as possible in its native state…” Columbus Recreation and Parks Department is the city’s administrative unit responsible for Webster Park today.
The provision that the park must be maintained in its “native state” means that, insofar as possible, it should be left alone to allow the native species to follow their natural progression. For example, naturally fallen trees in Webster Park remain where they land, to decay and provide shelter for small animals. The city must provide special permission before any plants can be removed from or added to the park.
For many years, neighbors kept the park litter-free by picking up refuse when they saw it and by organizing occasional clean-up days within the park. In recent years, growth of invasive plants such as euonymus (wintercreeper), English ivy, Asian honeysuckles, and garlic mustard changed the ecosystem of the park significantly. As a result, the volunteer group Friends of Webster Park was organized in 2005 to remove invasive plants under the supervision of the Recreation and Parks Department, and generally to protect and care for this natural area. In 2014 the city’s Nature Preserve Advisory Council voted to name Webster Park as a Nature Preserve.
In the years since the Friends began work, the park has seen a resurgence of wildflowers that had been smothered by the groundcovers, many trees have been saved from damage by removing invasive vines, and the native bushes are thriving with less competition from honeysuckle. One of the park’s outstanding features is the wetland on its west end, unique because it hosts one of Ohio’s very few stands of skunk cabbage.
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.
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.
One of the many ways we are aiming to enhance the health of the Olentangy Watershed is through campaigning for the planting of trees. Our goal is to partner with the Olentangy Watershed community and have everyone planting and caring for trees. We will do this by providing education, ensuring you live in the Olentangy Watershed, and offering free native trees and shrubs. Please go to the registration page by clicking here or by clicking “Grow with the FLOW” above. Registration is open through October 20th.
An great option for Columbus Residents living in Columbus is Branch Out’s Tree Give away on September 30th! Check out the link below!
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.
Locations sampled for the 2016 Olentangy River & Tributaries Fish & Habitat Survey
A recent studyof 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
Sample Reach 1
Sample Reach 2
Sample Reach 3
* 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.
It 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.
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.
Mutual 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.
In 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
In 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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Empty the following at least once a week:
• pet water bowls
• flowerpot saucers
• discarded tires
• pool covers
• trash cans
The 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.