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Metro Park breaks ground on nature center in Galloway
Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Turning dirt at the groundbreaking for the new Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park nature center are: (from left) Metro Parks board president Greg Lashutka, State Rep. Cheryl Grossman, park commissioner Frances Beasley, park manager Kevin Kasnyik, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Metro Parks executive director John O’Meara and park commissioner Jeff McNealey.
On Nov. 1, Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks officially broke ground on a 14,000 square foot nature center at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, located in Galloway just east of West Jefferson.
The steel, glass and concrete structure will sit atop a knoll overlooking one of the pastures the park’s bison herd inhabits. Inside, visitors will find a large multipurpose room, classrooms, office space and exhibits, including a 52-foot long living stream. Outside, features include observation decks and a learning courtyard.
The $6.1 million project, funded by a levy Franklin County voters passed in 2009, is slated to be complete by September 2012. The 16-park system has three other nature centers at Highbanks in Lewis Center, Blendon Woods in Westerville, and Blacklick Woods in Reynoldsburg.
The new nature center will highlight the natural diversity at Battelle Darby Creek, the largest Metro Park at 7,060 acres.
“The Big and Little Darby Creeks are considered jewels as far as freshwater streams go,” said Peg Hanley, Metro Parks spokesperson. Designated state and national scenic rivers, the creeks are home to an estimated 100 species of fish and 44 species of freshwater mussels.
Metro Parks has restored 1,000 acres of wetlands and wet prairies at Battelle Darby Creek, along with 400 acres of flowering prairies using only seeds native to the Darby Plains. The bison herd was introduced in February.
“The most exciting thing for me is we will have a place for school kids to learn about the park,” said Kevin Kasnyik, park manager. “The nature center will extend our season for this into the winter because we will have a place to bring them inside.”
So far this year, 25,000 people have participated in educational programs at Battelle Darby Creek. Over 40,000 have visited the park just to see the bison. In 2010, the total number of park visitors was 790,000.
“The nature center is a way for us to further make people aware of this great resource we have in our backyard,” Hanley said.
The Metro Parks mission is to conserve open spaces, providing places for people to discover and experience nature for generations to come.
“We’re paying forward today in a very unique way,” said Greg Lashutka, president of the Metro Parks board of park commissioners.
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park will gain global exposure in 2012 when Columbus hosts the international EcoSummit. Scientists from around the world will tour the park and the new nature center during the six-day conference set for the first week of October.
The nature center will be located at 1271 Darby Creek Drive, north of the park’s main entrance. Parking will be available. Visitors also will be able to reach the center by foot via the Greenway Trail.
For more information about the park system, go to www.metroparks.net.
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