2011 has been the year of downtown parks in Columbus. Earlier this year, the Columbus Commons opened on the site of the old Columbus City Center. Now the Scioto Mile has joined the Columbus parks parade.
The Scioto Mile is a thin strip of brick and stone walkways, flower beds and flower pots, fountains, and seating areas that runs along the Scioto River as it arcs through downtown Columbus. The area sits atop the Scioto River flood wall, well above the water itself, and is an effort to try to reintegrate the river into the downtown area by making the riverfront a more attractive destination.
In Columbus and other cities, city planners long ago made it difficult to get to the body of water that was a big part of the reason the for the city’s location in the first place, by putting heavily trafficked roads or walls or sports arenas or fences in the way. The Scioto Mile is an effort to reverse that approach. Planners apparently realized what the rest of us have known all along — people like water and are drawn to it. (Read the first few pages of Moby Dick if you don’t believe me.) The muddy Scioto is not as striking a body of water as, say, one of the Great Lakes or the Ohio River, but it is nevertheless pleasant to sit nearby and watch as the water meanders past.
I appreciate the effort and thought that went into the development of the Scioto Mile. I particularly like the inclusion of table areas for the brown bag lunch crowd and the swinging benches, which would be a pleasant way to spend a few minutes on lunch hour. The tables have checkerboard imprints and are just waiting for some serious chess players to show up. The fountains and planters also are attractive additions. From the signs appearing at various points along the Scioto Mile, it looks like the project has had significant corporate and foundational support.
Although the park is nice, the jury is still out on how much it will be used. The closest buildings to the Scioto Mile are government buildings and office buildings, without any restaurants, bars, or food areas in sight. If the hope is to make the Scioto Mile a bustling place, some kind of food and drink options will have to be part of the mix.