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Olentangy River Restoration A Year From Completion
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Restoration of the Olentangy River on the Ohio State University campus continues. The work began last year when the 5th Avenue Dam was torn down. That left the Olentangy with a ragged appearance. The Olentangyâ€™s bruises will take time to heal.
The Olentangy is now so shallow that giant pieces of earth-moving equipment easily move up and down the middle of the river.
Recently cyclist Matt Carmean stopped to watch the restoration work from a spot on the Olentangy bike trail. He and others are appalled by the mud flats and piles of debris that were exposed when the waters receded.
â€œI knew they were going to take this dam out so that this river I had known for all these years â€“ itâ€™s going to change. But first it was kind of shocking, you know? All those muddy islands appearing but I knew it was better for the river,â€ Carmean says.
Carmean is an artist. He says one of his favorite subjects is the Olentangy.
â€œIâ€™ve been coming to this river for almost 30 years. I paint and I draw. I first drew it in the spring of â€™85. And you know, I just come to it and look at it all the time,â€ Carmean says.
There wonâ€™t be scenic vistas on the Olentangy near the university anytime soon. It will take years for plants along the riverbanks to flourish. Ohio State Universityâ€™s Laura Shinn has been planning the restoration for 10 years. She says crews will begin planting this fall.
â€œTheyâ€™re going to be planting a pretty robust planting scheme; theyâ€™ll be planting native vegetation, trees, shrubs, ground covers, and all things that will help maintain water quality and are natural to a river corridor,â€ Shinn says.
The $7 million project will also make the Olentangy more environmentally functional. George Zonders is a spokesman for the city of Columbus.
â€œThereâ€™s going to be a series of what we would naturally see in a free-flowing river; a series of pools and riffles,â€ Zonders says. â€œThe riffles will be the shallow areas obviously that during a normal flow where the water flowing over the rocks will help oxygenate the water, and then the pools are the places where youâ€™d expect fish and other sorts of wildlife to be residing.â€
Bulldozers and backhoes are now narrowing the riverâ€™s course, making it a more meandering, winding stream. Ohio Stateâ€™s Laura Shinn says the project holds promise for other rivers in the U.S.
â€œQuite honestly itâ€™s probably one of the most extensive restorations of a river in a very urban, very developed area. I think it holds a lot of promise for setting an example for other folks,â€ Shinn says.
Major work on the Olentangy will be complete in about a yearâ€™s time. But the river wonâ€™t have a more natural look for many years to come. Matt Carmean is willing to wait.
â€œIt looks awful now but thatâ€™s really a blink of the eye â€“ thatâ€™s the short term. Thatâ€™s really the blink of the eye when you consider the long life that this river is going to have,â€ Carmean says. â€œSo itâ€™s a good thing that theyâ€™re doing it even though itâ€™s so different to my eyes because Iâ€™ve been looking at it for so long. Just have to wait and itâ€™ll be something to see.â€
â€œHang in there, folks!â€