Visitors to the Pleasant Grove area on the east side of Columbus could find themselves surrounded by butterflies, bees and native plants under plans to redevelop the neighborhood as a park.

The area, east of Haw Creek near the Cummins Technical Center, is being targeted as a site for a pollinator park.

The idea was inspired by the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the 2008 flood in Columbus, said Eric Riddle, the Columbus author of “Watershed: Service in the Wake of Disaster,” which focused on that local disaster.

After the 2008 flood, Columbus purchased 48 flood-damaged homes in the Pleasant Grove area through a buyout program, using $4.36 million in grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Jeff Bergman, city-county planning director.

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Those homes, later demolished, were located on 8.4 acres of land, Bergman said. Homeowners who voluntary chose to sell their homes to the city were paid fair-market, pre-flood value, he said. Terms of the grant used to purchase the properties mandate that they remain undeveloped and as green space in perpetuity, Bergman said.

Under the first phase of the proposed project, a looped trail system, benches and an outdoor classroom would encompass 3.5 acres, said Rachel Kavathe, a landscape designer who owns Loci Creative, a landscape architecture and urban design firm based in Columbus that helped create the Pleasant Grove design. In addition, native grasses and plants that would attract pollinator species such as bees and butterflies would also be part of the proposed park.

A memorial marking the 2008 flood is also planned, Kavathe said.

Choosing priorities

More than 20 people attended a meeting last week at Donner Center to hear details about the project.

Individuals at the meeting were asked to select their top three priorities they would like to see among 12 features being considered.

Before the idea moves forward, the pollinator park will require approval by the Columbus Plan Commission and FEMA.

The idea of a pollinator park fits within the city’s plans to offer more nature-based programming for area children, said Mark Jones, the city’s parks and recreation director.

“This is a great start to our plan,” Jones said.

Funding for the project is being pursued through a Creating Places grant, available from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. It would provide up to a $50,000 match for donations received, Kavathe said.

A formal grant application has not yet been filed, although a campaign to begin raising money is expected to begin in the middle of May.

Cost is projected to be $100,000 to $200,000 depending on what features are included, Kavathe said.

A pollinator park would make the area more aesthetically pleasing, said Columbus resident Julie Bilz, president of the State Street Area Association.

Fellow resident Kinsley Renshaw said he took a personal interest in the park as a landscaper, adding that he wants the public to learn more about different plants while enjoying the wildlife and environment.

“Everything doesn’t have to be mowed and grown,” Renshaw said.

Educational signs describing the different native grasses and plants within the park would be beneficial to the public, he said.

Jennings experience

Pollinator parks have grown in popularity in Jennings County over the past three years, said Andy Ertel, executive director of the Jennings County Soil and Water Conservation District.

In that time, 800 pollinator parks have been established across Jennings County, including 15 acres of them at schools throughout the area, Ertel said.

The proposed pollinator park for the Pleasant Grove area would bring species such as bees, butterflies, moths and other wildlife for the public to enjoy, he said.

“It would be a beautiful neighborhood asset,” he said. “To be able to come in and enjoy that … to me, it’d be a peaceful thing.”

Riddle said he hopes plans for the pollinator park will go before the city’s plan commission next month for consideration. He hopes to break ground on the project by June 7, the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 flood.

It’s too early, however, to suggest a timeline for completion of the park, he said.

Landscape architect Rachel Kavathe

Education: Bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Indiana University, master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in city planning from the University of North Carolina.

Professional background: Founded Loci Creative, based in Columbus, in 2015 and previously worked as a city planner and urban designer in the public and private sectors in Indiana, Georgia and Florida. She has also taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning. She is a certified city planner and licensed landscape architect in the state of Indiana.

Clients: She has worked with Hamilton County Tourism Inc., Wabash Valley Art Spaces Inc. and the Fishers Arts Council. She has also done work for the cities of Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville.

Source: Loci Creative

Pleasant Grove development timeline

Summer 2016: Pleasant Grove development project begins when proponents of park meet with city-county planning department director Jeff Bergman to discuss Federal Emergency Management Agency restrictions on the site.

Fall 2016: Pleasant Grove park concept discussed with Mark Jones, city parks and recreation director.

Spring 2017: Eric Riddle and Rachel Kavathe partner to host Ball State University landscape architecture student projects at Pleasant Grove. Discussions also begin with Landmark Columbus about future projects at Pleasant Grove.

Summer 2017: Formation of Pleasant Grove Development Committee discussed with Bergman, Jones and Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development with the city. Public meeting held at Donner Center Aug. 23.

Fall 2017: Pollinator park presentation held in Jennings County by Andy Ertel, executive director of the Jennings County Soil and Water Conservation District, in November.

Winter 2017-18: Discussions held with Sierra Club to develop pollinator park. Columbus Park Foundation agrees to be fiscal agent for project.

April 2018: Submit phase I of development plan to Indiana Department of Homeland Security for review.

May 15: Launch Creating Places grant campaign

June 7: Break ground on 10-year flood anniversary

Source: Eric Riddle

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or