Pollinator park great way to breathe new life in devastated area

Ten years after the 2008 Columbus flood, effects of the natural disaster are barely visible to the public eye. The community’s remarkable response was swift, well-coordinated and focused.

The perseverance and resourcefulness of those personally affected demonstrated the faith we had in recovering as a stronger and more vibrant city. Chapters could be written about the dedicated volunteers.

Millions of dollars were raised to “muck and gut,” restore submerged homes and totally rebuild others.

Stories from well-known institutions along Haw Creek — Columbus Regional Hospital, the Cummins Technical Center and Cummins Child Development Center — will be told to future generations of Columbus residents. However, there is one story about the Columbus flood that is not told enough.

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Simply walking across the street from the Cummins Tech Center parking lot reveals the neighborhood in Columbus most significantly altered. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s maximum $28,800 grant was not nearly enough to repair the buildings. Because of the overwhelming damage, more than 40 homes in the two blocks east of the Tech Center were leveled and turned into city-owned greenspace through the FEMA Property Acquisition Program.

Today, the empty lots are a stark reminder of the devastation that can be caused by a flood.

A refreshing “Puddles to Parks” project was accomplished in 2011 when students from Columbus Signature Acaemy – Lincoln Campus planted a small orchard on the south end of Pleasant Grove Street. The enthusiastic students successfully applied to FEMA with the expert assistance of the City Planning Department. I have tried the apples from the public orchard and they are excellent.

As we prepare for the 10-year anniversary of the flood, a group of neighbors and community stakeholders have been developing an ambitious, viable use for the Pleasant Grove greenspace. With the professional guidance of local landscape architect Rachel Kavathe, and Columbus Parks and Recreation Director Mark Jones, a pollinator park plan has been submitted to the City Planning Department for review.

The proposal, known as Pleasant Grove Park, creates space for a 2008 flood memorial site. It is fitting for the history of the flood to be commemorated in the neighborhood where recovery is not marked by months or years, but instead by a decade.

The flood and the recovery that followed was truly unexpected and unforgettable. Likewise, Pleasant Grove Park has the potential to embody our city’s aspiring slogan.

It will take a coordinated effort that I know we are capable of — the kind of effort galvanized in Columbus in the summer of 2008.

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What: “Past, Present, Future at Pleasant Grove.” 

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday (rain date 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday)

Where: South end of Pleasant Grove Street at “Puddles to Parks” orchard site

Why: Honor the 10-year anniversary of the Columbus flood; highlight potential future use of Pleasant Grove greenspace

How: Plant 10 Serviceberry trees, share pollinator park designs, display history of student-led “Puddles to Parks” project at Pleasant Grove, brief remarks by individuals involved in flood recovery and Pleasant Grove park design team


Eric Riddle is the author of “Watershed: Service in the Wake of Disaster,” a book about the 2008 flood recovery in Columbus.