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Biking Bonanza: Central Ohio hopes to roll out new trail systems

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Biking the Olentangy Trail is a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts around Central Ohio, especially when the leaves turn lush and green and the sunshine warms the surrounding parks. Beyond that, though, the trail connecting Worthington to Clintonville to Ohio State is a vital pathway for folks looking for alternative commuting options for their daily treks downtown.

A few miles to the east runs the Alum Creek Trail, connecting Westerville, Easton and Bexley. The two trails run parallel to one another, but the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and Central Ohio Greenways (COG) hope that in a few years, the two will become connected through an additional path.

The change would be part of an effort to expand Central Ohio’s trail system, adding 500 new miles of pathways to the over 230 that already exist throughout Franklin County and the surrounding seven counties.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

The vision was developed by COG, a collaborative group including local governments and private and nonprofit partners that wanted to create a cohesive trail system, says COG coordinator Melinda Vonstein.

“What’s really exciting is that these new trail connections will fill in gaps in our trail corridors that largely run along river corridors, and they’ll also connect neighborhoods to jobs,” Vonstein said.

Vonstein says the number of miles traveled along the Central Ohio trail system has increased every year since 2014, reaching 11.5 million miles in 2017. On top of that, the region is growing in population, and congestion in the city is getting worse. 

The combination of these factors, Vonstein says, will increase the demand for a more accessible trail system, and one of the existing limitations the expansion is hoping to address is the lack of east to west trails.

“Initially about 10 years ago, trails started to be built in our region as an effort to protect our waterways, so many of the trails that exist run along our north valley corridors,” Vonstein said. “What we’re trying to do is create some connections, some east-west connections, to create a truly interconnected network of trails.”

Within the city, these proposed connections include paths connecting the Olentangy to the Scioto Trail along 161 and through the OSU campus. But the expansion would move outward, too, connecting Lancaster, Johnstown, Delaware, Marysville, and Circleville.  

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Vonstein says the trails throughout Central Ohio are meant to provide a safe, low-stress transportation option for people ages eight to 80. She’s most excited about connecting historically underserved people in this regard with access to trails, and she says the COG is working with other groups “to create a transportation system that works from neighborhood to town centers.”

Aside from providing more accessible transportation, however, the expanded trails will also give folks using the paths a chance to experience a wider range of the area’s urban, suburban, and natural environments.  

“We really see these trails as linear parks that are a way to not only connect people to mobility options, but also as a way to connect with nature,” Vonstein said. “We’re really excited that this trail vision allows us to connect to a lot of natural places and gives us the opportunity to just experience the nature and really amazing spaces that Central Ohio has on a more human scale outside of the car.”

The vision to add 500 miles of trails is ambitious, though, and will likely carry a hefty price tag. Vonstein says the project is expected to cost at least $250 million, and the timeline for development is dependent on finding funding sources. Still, she says a study COG funded last year indicated regional leaders see access to trails as a driver for economic development, better health outcomes, and improved quality of life.

The group’s next steps will be to conduct another study this year focused on how trail use supports economic development, social equity and the environment, which Vonstein hopes will help with grant funding.

“We, our community leaders, and our trail advocates in Central Ohio really see the value of trails, so we know that there is an opportunity to find some funding to accelerate the pace of this development,” Vonstein said of the vision. 

The new trails may still be a few years out, but it’s never too late to start exploring the existing paths. COG is also working with Yay Bikes!, a local bike advocacy group, to help educate people on safe bicycling habits both on and off pathways. Maybe one day, folks will be able to take what they’ve learned and hop not just from Clintonville to Grandview, but also from the Hilltop to Whitehall.

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614NOW Survival Guide: Jazz & Rib Fest

Mike Thomas

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With hours of free live music and over a dozen vendors of amazing smoked foods at your disposal, the Jazz & Rib fest is one of the signature events of summer in Columbus.

A festival of this scale offers so much to enjoy, which means it’s also easy to get overwhelmed. Unpredictable weather. Crowds. The ever-present threat of itis. What’s a Jazz & Rib-lover to do?

Never fear, 614NOW is here with another summer festival survival guide. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to jazzy, pork-nap bliss.

Weather the storm (or heat)

July weather in Columbus can be unpredictable, so you’ll want to be prepared for whatever mother nature throws at you. With near-record heat in the forecast this weekend, be sure to pack an extra bottle or two of water or your favorite sports drink. High temps bring the potential for popup thunderstorms, so a cheap rain poncho in the back pocket is a clutch move.

Park it

The official Jazz and Rib fest website has all the info you’ll need to get where you’re going, and even offers some tips on where to park. While parking at meters, in downtown garages, and at COSI will be in play, it’s good to remember that public transit might be the cheapest way to get in and out. For those with the means, an Uber or Lyft could be preferable to navigating crowded and expensive event parking—plus you’ll probably leave the fest too full of rib meat to drive anyway.

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Line ’em up

You’ve made it to the fest, and now you’re faced with the hardest choice you’ll make this weekend: which ribs should you get? Two main factors to keep in mind: long lines may indicate a top-notch vendor, but obviously you’ll be waiting longer. Tents with short lines offer a quick fix, but could be a dice-roll when it comes to flavor.

Our advice: let your hunger guide you. If you see a favorite BBQ joint or a place offering your go-to regional style, a wait in line could be well worth it. If you’ve spent an hour circling the block for an open meter and arrive to the fest with ravenous hunger for smoked meats, hop in the shortest line you see. General consensus is that all participating vendors are pretty good, so wherever you end up you’ll probably be satisfied.

Yeah, cat! Dig those smooth grooves

If you only come for the ribs, you’re missing half the fun. The 2019 Jazz & Rib fest has secured a stellar lineup of artists ranging from smooth jazz favorites Norman Brown and Brian Culbertson, to local standouts Kinfolk and The Huntertones.

But The can’t-miss musical event of the weekend comes care of the Soul Rebels, who will be accompanied by founding member and spiritual leader of the legendary Wu-Tang clan, the one and only GZA.

Check out the fest’s full lineup of artists and schedule, and plan your time in rib lines accordingly.

The 2019 Jazz & Rib Fest takes place Friday, July 19, 2019 through Sunday, July 21 at Bicentennial Park. The event is free to attend.

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The Weekend Lookout: 3 can’t miss events for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Mitch Hooper

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Did you enjoy your festival break last week? I sure hope so because the festivals are back in action this weekend and you have some catching up to do. With everything from cavity-inducing craft beer pairings to setting your new 5K personal record time, here’s what you can’t miss this weekend.

P.S. Don’t forget about Restaurant Week July 15-20!

Friday

Jazz & Rib Fest 2019 @ The Scioto Mile

All weekend you can enjoy the sounds of jazz and the stains of barbecue at the Jazz & Rib Fest. Including the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, this music festival will feature The Squirrel Nut Zippers, The Rebel Souls, and many more. Just be sure to keep a few wet naps handy throughout the day.

Sommerfest @ Germania Singing & Sport Society

Join the Germania Society for a night on the patio filled with bier, German entrees, and more bier! Test your endurance in the stein holding contest, or test your speed with a personal stein drinking contest. Just be verantwortlich (responsible).

Free Movie Night: How To Train Your Dragon @ Columbus Commons

Load up the kiddos in the car (or just come as your dragon loving self, we don’t judge) with blankets and lawn chairs to set up in the Commons for a free flick. How To Train Your Dragon is a comical animated movie, and it answers the lifelong question of how do you train your dragon?

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Saturday

The Peach Truck @ Weiland’s Market

Pour up a strong cup of coffee and head over to Weiland’s Market bright and early to score some of the freshest peaches in Ohio. The market opens at 8 a.m., and the lines will probably start filing in around 7:59 a.m.

Sours, Sorbets, & Donuts @ Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

Start Saturday right with sour beers courtesy of Wolf’s Ridge and donuts courtesy of The Drunken Donut. The donut pop-up will be running from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. while the rest of the brewery will be doing flight pairings with sours and sorbets. For $12, your flight will include Grapefruit Sorbet with Terre du Sauvage; Blue -Strawberry & Rhubarb Sorbet with Strawberry Swimming in the Mangrove; and Black Cherry Sorbet with Swimming in the Mangrove.

Beer & Ice Cream @ Nocterra Brewing Company

So maybe starting your weekend before noon isn’t in your wheelhouse—that’s fine. Starting at 2 p.m., Nocterra will be partnering up with the Ice Cream Cart to serve up scoops alongside your pints. If you can’t tell, we really want you to forget the diet you’re on for the weekend.

Sunday

Michael Bublé @ The Schottenstein Center

Michael Bublé is back on tour after a long break from it all and he’s stopping off in Columbus. Don’t miss your chance to be serenaded by the smooth singing icon himself.

$10 Beer Flights @ Parsons North Brewing Company

Four mini glasses of beer for only $10? Sunday Funday has never been so affordable. Drink up! The deal is only on Sundays.

Ohio State Ross Heart Hospital 5K @ Ohio State (411 Woody Hayes Dr.)

This is why we were pushing donuts, ice cream, beer, and sorbet on you so heavy for Saturday and Sunday. Burn off those extra calories for a great cause as proceeds benefit heart disease research at Ohio State Davis Heart & Lung Research Institute.

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Be a canine counselor during Franklin County Shelter’s dog vacation week

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It’s a miracle that we are lucky enough to experience Restaurant Week and Shelter Vacation in one week! From July 15-19, the Franklin County Dog Shelter & Adoption Center is giving you the opportunity to foster a dog, learn more about him or her, and see if you’re the perfect match for an adoption—it’s like a sleep-away camp for pups!

Shelter Vacation will feature adoptable dogs that have been at the shelter for at least one month, putting them in a better position to move out of the shelter and into their forever homes.

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Interested in this unique opportunity to brighten the life of a furry, four-legged friend? check out the adoptable dogs here, then contact Andrew at [email protected]

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