Park in works for flood-stricken Columbus neighborhood

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COLUMBUS, Ind. - Dozens of empty lots in a neighborhood could soon house new trees, bushes, other plants and trails. The greenspace would go along Pleasant Grove, where a flood on June 7, 2008 caused many homes to get torn down.

On that day, heavy rain came down and formed a basin near the southern corner of the road, according to Eric Riddle.

"Homes at the bottom of this area, the entire first floor was underwater," said Riddle, who has written a book about the flood. "Whenever FEMA says it’s willing to buy a home, they know the property damage is well beyond the $28,800 they give to homeowner for repairs."

Overall, nearly 50 homes were purchased, torn down, and the land was handed to the city. Most of it has sat empty ever since.

Riddle is part of the Pleasant Grove Park Development Committee, a group of residents in the community who want to turn the empty lots into a park for the neighborhood.

He said the land is maintained by the city, but it is not a city park.

The committee wants the park to be a pollinator park and connect it to an existing trail system.

“It’s using native plant species that are natural attractors of butterflies and bees," Riddle said.

Rachel Kavathe is also on the committee, and works in designing landscape projects, such as the one the committee wants to create.

The first phase the committee wants to finish is roughly 3.5 acres.

It won't be the first area in the neighborhood to get new plants. In 2011, second graders from Lincoln Elementary were assigned a project throughout the school year to plant trees at the southern southeast corner of Pleasant Grove.

"We decided, because we were second graders, we wanted to turn it into a park," said Emma Edwards, a student who worked on the project. She'll start here sophomore year of school at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech Campus in August. "So, we were like this is a big deal, this is a big endeavor, we are going to need some help. So, we ended up getting I’m pretty sure all eleven schools in the district."

Many of the students are expected back at the site on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The community is holding an event where new trees and plant life will be put in the ground. The mayor is expected to speak, as well as members of the park development committee to tell people more about the project.

The land still needs local, state and federal agencies to approve what the land can have. The committee is starting to form a budget to what all the work will cost.

"Once we’re able to successfully able to fund raise what we need, we’re hoping to begin construction next year," said Kavathe. "Next spring or summer."

People interested in learning more about the project or donating can contact The Columbus Parks Foundation.

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