As a master planned community, New Albany’s commitment to recreation and open space is by design. More than 13 percent of New Albany’s land – nearly 1,000 acres – is dedicated to open space, representing New Albany’s third largest percentage of overall land use.
While seemingly contradictory, New Albany’s two largest land uses actually enable the development of future open space. New Albany’s largest land use, residential development, constitutes half of the city’s land. When residential land is subdivided, developers need to comply with two substantial open space and park land requirements that make it easy to see why New Albany’s population per square mile (668) is dwarfed by Dublin’s (1,708), Powell’s (2,332), Worthington’s (2,445), Westerville’s (2,948), Upper Arlington’s (3,432) and Bexley’s (5,373). The first residential subdivision requirement states that 20 percent of all gross developed land area must be dedicated to common open space. The city also requires 2,400 square feet of park land for every dwelling unit – in addition to the open space within the development.
New Albany is often in the news for its second largest land use, commercial development, and for good reason. To date, private business has invested more than $1.3 billion in the New Albany Business Park, creating 12,000 jobs within our borders. Income taxes account for 75 percent of the city’s revenue stream, and every time a new business locates within New Albany, new income tax revenues are generated. Since the creation of our business park fifteen years ago, businesses and their employees have produced in excess of $100 million in community income tax revenues for city services, infrastructure improvements and education.
These revenues directly correlate to quality of life and recreation improvements such as our leisure trail system. There are now 30 miles and growing of trail connections throughout New Albany, connecting runners, walkers, families and workers to neighborhoods, the Village Center and the business park. Trail improvements set for this year include a section along Central College Road near Dean Farm Road that, when complete, will extend the Central College Trail from New Albany Road East all the way to U.S. Rt. 62. Further improvements planned in 2014 will extend this trail to the eastern edge of the Tidewater subdivision.
Over and above open space improvements within New Albany, city leaders continue to commit funds in partnership with other municipalities to preserve open space around the city. A major commitment is the Rocky Fork Metro Park in northern Plain Township. Developed in conjunction with Franklin County Metro Parks, the city of Columbus and Plain Township, this Metro Park will be located north of Walnut Street between Schott and Bevelhymer for all area residents to enjoy. City leaders initially pledged $2.5 million for land acquisition in 2005 and followed that commitment with another $1.25 million to be used for land acquisition over the next five years. More than 900 acres have already been purchased for park development, with plans for an additional 300 acres. Park improvements are expected to begin in 2014, and over time, are expected to include picnic areas, horseback riding trails, walking paths and the preservation of natural features, including the headwaters of Rocky Fork Creek.
Leisure trails and open spaces in and around New Albany are visual reminders of how residents benefit from the city’s sound residential and commercial growth policies. Other recreation partners include the New Albany-Plain Local Joint Park District, which manages more than 200 acres of park land and recreational sports programs for more than 3,700 annual participants of all ages, and Plain Township, which is a Rocky Fork Metro Park partner and also manages the Plain Township Aquatic Center.
The next time you go for a swim, participate in a local sports league, use a trail or go to a community park, remember that there are many different entities working to create a lifetime of recreation memories. Now, would anyone like to join me for a run?
Scott McAfee is a contributing writer and public information officer for the city of New Albany. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.