CIRCLEVILLE — The Pickaway County Park District is looking to build on 2020’s successes going into 2021, especially with new grant money soon-to-be in hand.

In a report, the park district compiled a document titled “2020 Year in Review.” the park district highlighted key successes in 2020, including completed projects and their 2020 programming, highlighted their new office space and outlined some projects they plan to tackle in 2020.

Park District Director Tom Davis said the big 2020 project was the 1.5 miles of paved trail between Canal Road and state Route 104, just west of Circleville, and they’re looking ahead to two, maybe three big projects in 2021.

“We’re glad that we’ve not got that under our belt,” he said. “We’re now working to get canoe access to Big Darby Creek that we got a grant for last year. That will go in this year. Right now, there’s no public access to that creek. It’s 15 miles from Orient to Circleville. That’s been part of our plan for the last three or four years.”

Davis said a second canoe and kayak access point where state Route 62 crosses Big Darby Creek further to the north, is something they’re working on, if they get approval for another grant later this year.

“That will be really exciting for the paddlers to get that,” he said.

Davis said they’ve been working with the Appalachia Ohio Alliance who is in the final stages of acquiring Cooks Creek to turn that property into a nature area.

“We’re partnering with them to buy 25 to 30 acres off them for a nature center, maintenance facility and walking trails,” he said. “A lot of that depends on the contract with Appalachia Ohio Alliance and the EPA who is giving them the money to buy it and the restrictions.

Davis said in 2020, given all that was happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in park visitors to all of the county parks and trails.

“There was a tremendous increase in visitation at Canal Park, the Roundtown Trail and at Logan Elm Park,” Davis said. “In talking with other park districts, they all also had increased usage of their facilities because people were tired of being inside and this was one way they could safely get out. We hope that it stays at those levels moving forward. Part of the reason people don’t use our facilities is that they don’t know about them, and we’re hoping through word of mouth, those numbers will stay up in 2021.”

Davis said they originally expected things would slow down with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it actually went the other way, especially with lawmakers having more time to work on the State Capital Budget, in which the parks received a $500,000 grant to build a bridge over the Scioto River.

“We’re really fortunate to have the support of Gary Scherer and Ron Hood on the Scioto bridge project,” Davis said. “I think the timing of that thing was because the capital bill got put on hold and they had more time to talk to people about the importance of these projects to people. They brought more projects back to Pickaway County.”

Another big change for the park district was changing locations this time moving from 110 Island Road to a former Pickaway County Board of Developmental Disabilities facility at 548 Lancaster Pike. The new space will allow the park district to house their equipment indoors and have a dedicated maintenance space.

“We’re excited to have the facility and we just had a big overhead door that helps us get in an out of the maintenance area,” Davis said. “We’re sharing with the county maintenance people. We’re getting used to it and we’re ecstatic to have a nice place for the equipment. This facility is a 100 percent improvement over what we have. Offices are a little bit smaller, but that’s working out just fine. We’ll have to find another place for board meetings when we start having them in-person again, but we’re happy to be where we’re at.”

Davis said they’ve begun working on summer programming, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re not sure what they’ll be able to do.

“We had to cancel 95 percent of our programming last year, so it’s hard to know if we want to plan for 2021 or not,” he said.

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