On July 15, 1910, the City Recreation Department was established to enrich Columbus by finding ways to make streets, alleys, boulevards, parks and public grounds more beautiful. Check out some of the highlights of the history of Columbus Recreation and Parks below.
- Franklinton, the first settlement in Franklin County, was founded by Lucas Sullivant. The Ohio country is part of the Northwest Territory.
- Columbus named State Capital by the Ohio General Assembly.
- Population of Columbus is 4,000.
- City of Columbus became incorporated as a city.
- The first city park was established, Livingston Park. When purchased at $1,125 it was a cemetery and the graves had to be relocated to Greenlawn Cemetery before it was opened to the public in 1885.
- Franklinton Cemetery acquired. Department still maintains this graveyard of city’s founders.
- Lincoln Goodale donated 40 acres to be developed into a park.
- The Franklin County Agricultural Society purchased 88 acres as the site for the first Franklin County Fair. The property will evolve into Franklin Park eventually.
- Population of Columbus is 18,554.
- Goodale Park became a training grounds for new recruits for the Union Army when the Civil War broke out. Camp Jackson operated in the park for seven weeks before a much larger Camp Chase was built on Columbus’ west side. Today, that location is Westgate Park.
- Ohio State Arsenal is built, becomes home of the Cultural Arts Center in 1978.
- Schiller Park, formerly known as City Park in German Village was purchased for $15,000 from D.W. Deshler and A.G. Thurman.
- Population of Columbus 31,274.
- Jefferson Park built, renamed Thurber Park in 1977.
- Small zoos existed in Goodale Park and Schiller Park. Animals were relocated to Franklin Park eventually.
- City (Franklin) Park became the site of the Ohio State Fair until it relocated to its present location in 1886.
- On August 11, 10,000 Union Civil War veterans gathered at a Grand Army of the Republic Reunion at City (Franklin) Park to hear General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous “war is hell” speech.
- Columbus Horticultural Society builds a 10-acre garden in City (Franklin) Park.
- Statue of Friedrich Schiller is dedicated in Schiller Park.
- The Grand Victorian Greenhouse was built at Franklin Park for $24,000 as a replica of the Chrystal Palace in London. Today it is known as the Palm House.
- Franklin Park became an official city park. Franklin County Agricultural Society purchased land for the Franklin County Fair in Hilliard.
- First City Code was published.
- Population of Columbus 125,560.
- City has 196 acres of parkland.
- City Council approves issuing $8,500 in bonds for improvements to Livingston Park and Schiller Park.
- Eighteen member commission was created to oversee citywide park system.
- Griggs Dam dedicated. Named after Julian Griggs, City Engineer.
- City Beautiful Movement Report of the Plan Commissioned for the City of Columbus, Ohio is published. One of the earliest attempts at planning for the City, began in 1904. The Plan called for additional park space as a crucial aspect of the city’s development and recommended a variety of parks and land acquisition far beyond the city limits. It recommends a system of boulevards and parkways connecting city parklands, streams and open spaces.
- City has four playgrounds at Schiller, Livingston, Goodale and Glenwood Parks.
- Population of Columbus 181,511.
- Young Ladies Playground Association and the Federation of Women’s Clubs established the Committee on Cooperation to pressure the city government to assume responsibility for the city’s playgrounds. They presented their studies and a check for $1,400 to City Council.
- On July 15, City Council passed Ordinance #25336 establishing the Columbus Department of Recreation with initial operating budget of $6,000.
- Edgar S. Martin appointed Director of Recreation Department, to supervise 10 playgrounds, civic fields, bathing beaches and under the authority of the Columbus Board of Education the city schools’ outdoor sports program.
- Nelson Park given to City by Nelson Family in memory of David Nelson.
- First city bond issue of $20,000 was passed for public recreation.
- R.S. Wambold became Director of Recreation Department upon the resignation of Edgar S. Martin.
- Glenwood Park acquired.
- Brevoort Park acquired. Additional acreage purchased in 1926.
- Goodale Shelter House and Residence built.
- Wolfe Park with 41-acres donated to the city by Robert F. Wolfe.
- Great Flood hits Columbus on March 23-26. Downtown, Franklinton and Westside flooded.
- Superintendent’s residence built in Franklin Park.
- Glen Echo Park acquired. Additional acreage purchased in 1929.
- The Columbus City Charter was originally adopted by the voters on May 5.
- City Council approved the Franklin Park Commission to build a new shelter and recreation center in Franklin Park.
- City owned nine parks. Annual budget was $5,516, including $304.17 for horse feed.
- Construction of Franklin Park Shelter House ($30,000). Turned over to City in June.
- Construction of Glenwood Recreation Center and Shelter House ($25,000).
- A.W. Raymond became Director of Recreation Department upon the resignation of R.S. Wambold.
- Glenwood Recreation Center and Shelter House dedicated.
- Construction of Schiller Recreation Center ($40,000).
- Schiller Recreation Center dedicated.
- Spanish Flu Pandemic impacts the United States.
- Population of Columbus 237,031.
- First municipal golf course opened next to the Dublin Road Waterworks Plant. It was a 9-hole course, but was expanded to 18-holes in 1927. Self-supporting from the beginning, it was renamed Twin Rivers Golf Course in 1933 and closed in 1956.
- Northmoor Park acquired. Additional acreage purchased in 1955.
- American Legion Park acquired and renamed Clinton-Como Park. Additional acreage purchased in 1938, 1960 and 1975.
- Beatty Recreation Center is opened.
- The privately owned Columbus Zoological Park opened at the 21-acre Riverside Park.
- Indian Village Day Camp opened to provide camp experience for inter-city children. 839 children sped 3 day periods over 9 weeks at 90 cents each for transportation.
- Herman L. Wirthwen became Director of Recreation Department upon the retirement of A.W. Raymond.
- Maryland Pool was given to the city as a gift by the Columbus Dispatch. Pool and bathhouses built in 3 weeks. Adult admission was 15 cents and children 10 cents.
- Population of Columbus 290,564.
- The privately owned Columbus Zoological Park becomes the Columbus Municipal Zoo.
- Obelisk erected in Franklinton Cemetery.
- Cassidy Park acquired (only park acquired during the Great Depression years until 1941)
- There is a 70% reduction in the Recreation Department budget.
- Charles E. Seddon became Director of Recreation Department upon resignation of Herman L. Wirthwen.
- Sunshine (Dodge) Recreation Center constructed by Public Service Department.
- City stops managing the Columbus Municipal Zoo.
- Two lodges are built at Indian Village, a dining hall and a recreation hall.
- Population of Columbus 305,087.
- Jack Cannon became Director of Recreation Department upon retirement of Charles E. Seddon.
- Rodney Ross became Director of Recreation Department upon resignation of Jack Cannon.
- Columbus Recreation Commission established.
- Fuller Farm acquired by Mayor James A. Rhodes for a future park in Clintonville.
- Nicholas J. Barack became Director of Recreation Department upon resignation of Rodney Ross.
- Ray Dietz became Superintendent of Division of Parks & Forestry.
- Passage of a $775,000 bond issue as World War II ends.
- The Dutch elm disease hits the United States and spreads rapidly. 50% of elm trees in Columbus are wiped out.
- City Council designated Fuller Farms property as Whetstone Park to perpetuate the name the first settlers gave the Olentangy River.
- City leased the old Elks Club Golf Course on the site of the present campus of the Ohio State School for the Blind and Deaf on Morse Road until 1953. It was named Wyandot Golf Course.
- Population of Columbus 375,900.
- Whetstone Park dedicated.
- City voters approved $1.5 million bond issue for parks.
- City takes over the privately owned Columbus Zoological Park for the second time of its existence because it was struggling financially after World War II. The Department manages the zoo.
- City Council approved issuing $205,000 worth of bonds to construct the Park of Roses and to form the Columbus Rose Commission.
- Tree Commission established.
- Whetstone, Linden, Westgate and Southview (Berliner) Shelter Houses dedicated.
- Park of Roses dedicated with 30,000 roses planted on 13.5 acres.
- Opening day of the Park of Roses, May 30-31 with 8,000 attendance. On July 4, 10,000 attended.
- American Rose Society moved its headquarters to Columbus from Harrisburg, PA to a building adjacent to the park.
- Maiden of Roses Pageant held annually to promote the Park of Roses and provide scholarships until 1975.
- First year of operation of the Municipal Tree Nursery with 11,685 trees and shrubs planted.
- The task of maintaining playgrounds was transferred to the Division of Parks & Forestry from the Recreation Department, along with 79 ball diamonds and an archery range.
- Raymond Memorial Golf Course, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed championship course on Trabue Road opened.
- Parks Commission formed to advise the Superintendent of the Division of Parks & Forestry on park operations. In the early years each park had a separate commission or committee to oversee it, but authority and responsibility was with the Department of Public Service.
- Recreation Department’s first senior center opened in the basement of Franklin County Memorial Hall which later becomes the first site of the Center of Science & Industry (COSI) in 1964.
- Thompson Recreation Center is dedicated.
- First airing of the Recreation Department’s long running, half-hour local TV show “Fun for Everyone.”
- The construction of I-71 South divides Southview Park. Ballfields left on west side named McCoy Park. Military housing units erected during World War II are removed from the park.
- Population of Columbus 471,316.
- Linden, Whetstone, Windsor Terrace and Thompson Recreation Centers opened. Sixteen Recreation centers are being operated year-round by the department.
- McDowell Senior Center opened in a CMHA facility next to Sunshine (Dodge) Park.
- Franklin Park became the site of the administrative offices of the Recreation Department.
- Donald P. Schmidt became Superintendent of the Division of Parks & Forestry upon the retirement of Ray Dietz.
- Sunshine (Dodge) Pool opened. It was the first pool the department had constructed since Maryland Pool in 1929. Over the next four years, six more pools will be constructed.
- Lincoln Recreation Center opened. Later renamed in honor of Nicholas J. Barack.
- A major redevelopment of Southview Park was completed.
- Airport Golf Course opened next to John Glenn International Airport. It is a Jack Kidwell designed championship course.
- Melvin B. Dodge became Director of the Recreation Department upon the retirement of Nicholas J. Barack.
- Barnett, Feddersen and Westgate Recreation Centers opened. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey visited Blackburn.
- Columbus Swim Center opened.
- City’s first public camp site was opened at Griggs Dam on the east side with 70 camp sites.
- City has 104 parks, 9,300 acres of parkland.
- Second & Summit Senior Center opened in Italian Village.
- 1100 East Broad Senior Center opened in a CMHA facility.
- Lower Scioto Trail opens on the west levee of the Scioto River for 1.7 miles south of Greenlawn Ave.
- Population of Columbus 539,677.
- Recreation Department turns over the operation of the Columbus Municipal Zoo to the Zoological Park, Inc., a non-profit organization.
- Golden Hobby Shop opened in a restored house at 906 East Broad Street. It later moves to the historic Third Street School in German Village selling handcrafted items by senior citizens.
- Bolton Golf Course (later renamed Mentel Memorial), a Jack Kidwell designed course opened.
- Melvin B. Dodge named Superintendent of the Division of Parks & Forestry, following the resignation of Donald P. Schmidt.
- Delawanda Park acquired.
- Walnut Bluffs Campground constructed at Hoover Reservoir.
- Start of the “Riverfront Development Project”, a joint effort between the State of Ohio and the City to include a floating band shell and amphitheater, pedal boat marina and trails in the downtown.
- Wilson Road Golf Course opened as a family nine-hole course.
- Merger of Recreation Department and Department of Public Service’s Parks & Forestry Division into Columbus Recreation & Parks Department and formation of a nine-member commission. (Voter approved 11/7/1972)
- CRPD combines operations in a campus of buildings on the Whittier Penisula. Administrative offices are moved from Franklin Park to City Hall.
- Central Ohio Area on Aging (COAAA) created by the Ohio Department of Aging to plan, implement and administer various federally-funded programs for the senior population became a part of the department.
- The American Rose Society moved their national headquarters from Columbus to a new facility in Shreveport, Louisiana, and donated their old building to the department as the Roselea Senior Center.
- Park of Roses Gazebo dedicated. (Originally located at Fort Hayes Army Base) North Columbus Jaycees raised the funds for restoration.
- Krumm, Indian Mound and Tuttle Recreation Centers dedicated.
- Bicentennial Park developed. Dedicated on July 4.
- Music-in-the-Air program created to bring outdoor concerts to neighborhood parks.
- Department has 120 parks, 10,548 acres of parkland.
- New Cultural Arts Center opened in the Old Ohio State Arsenal. Dedicated on June 11.
- Sawyer Towers, Linton Gardens and Marion Square Senior Centers opened.
- Antrim Park with shelter house, tennis courts and loop trail built for $572,087.
- Barber Roselea and Martin Janis Senior Centers opened.
- Mock and Big Run Athletic Centers opened.
- City buys Old Third Street School in German Village for $250,000 from the Columbus Board of Education for the Golden Hobby Shop. Renovated in 1981.
- Population of Columbus 564,871.
- Sensenbrenner Park named in honor of M.E. Sensenbrenner, mayor from 1964-1971) dedicated.
- Harrison House purchased by the city. Major renovations completed on house and grounds.
- Olentangy and Scioto Bikeways designated as National Recreational Trails by U.S. Department of Interior.
- Old Ohio School for the Deaf site transferred to Department by the State of Ohio for a park.
- Driving Park Recreation Center opened.
- Westbank Walkway and Overlook completed.
- Clintonville Portal Park dedicated.
- Central High School closed. Columbus Board of Education transfer ownership to the city.
- Deaf School Park, Battelle Riverfront Park and Maloney Park dedicated.
- Southview Park is renamed Lou Berliner Park for Lou Berliner, Columbus Dispatch sportswriter.
- Jerry Page, department boxing instructor, won the Gold Medal in boxing at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
- Department grows to 1,000 full and part-time employees during 75th Anniversary.
- James W. Barney became Director, upon the retirement of Melvin B. Dodge. Dodge becomes President of the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau.
- Sunshine Park was renamed to honor Melvin B. Dodge.
- Elk Run, Nafzger, Independence Village, Helsel, Stoneridge and Redick Parks dedicated.
- Dodge and Maryland Pools renovated.
- Acquired Catalpa Park and Riverbend Park.
- Harrison House and Lucas Sullivant Land Office dedicated.
- Roosevelt Junior High School transferred to Department. Building demolished and park built.
- Garfield Elementary School is transferred to the Department, becomes the home of the King Arts Complex. 1988
- Winding Hollow Golf Course on Westerville Road is purchased from a private country club. The Robert Trent Jones Sr. Course was built in 1920.
- Mayme Moore Park is dedicated.
- Anheuser-Busch Sports Park is donated to Department by the brewery.
- Department transfers ownership of the eastern 28 acres of Franklin Park to the newly created Franklin Park Conservatory Joint Recreation District.
- “Son of Heaven” traveling exhibit of 26 centuries of Chinese art opens in the old Central High School from March – September. Department maintained the grounds during the exhibition.
- Population of Columbus 636,323.
- Cleo Dumaree Athletic Complex opened in Academy Park.
- Buster Douglas, who learned boxing at Windsor Recreation Center, won the World Heavyweight Championship.
- Woodbridge Green Park, Howard Recreation Center, Carriage Place Recreation Center and Brookside Woods Park dedicated.
- Turnberry Golf Course, an Arthur Hill designed champion ship course opened near Pickerington.
- Winding Hollow Golf Course renamed Champions Golf Course.
- Franklin Park is the host site of “Ameriflora ‘92”, a six-month international horticulture exposition.
- Topiary Garden in Deaf School Park, Freedom Park, Northern Woods Park, Flint Park, “The Discovery Playground” at Olde Sawmill Park and the M.E. Sensenbrenner Monument in Glenwood Park dedicated.
- Naming of “Bill McDonald Athletic Complex” at Anheuser-Busch Park takes place.
- A replica of the Santa Maria is placed on the Scioto River at Battelle Park to commemorate the 500th Quincentenary Celebration of Columbus’ voyage to the New World.
- A three dimensional recreation of George Seurat’s painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is opened to the public at Deaf School Park. The painting is done in topiaries.
- Hoover Meadows Blue Bird Trail at Hoover Reservoir and Summitview Park dedicated.
- Gary N. Fenton became Director, upon the resignation of James W. Barney.
- Current department logo adopted.
- Purchased Smith’s Famous Farm (1,053 acres) from Lot & Betty Smith. Named Three Creeks Park, Sycamore Fields, Heron Pond, Smith Farms and Madison Mills Parks.
- The fountain in Harder Lake in Westgate Park dedicated. Original fountain collapsed in the 1940’s.
- Players Theatre on Franklin Avenue, built in 1923, is purchased by the Department for $258,000. It has been renamed the Columbus Performing Arts Theatre.
- Outdoor Summer Camps held throughout the park system for the first time.
- Partnership through Sponsorship program launched by the Office of Special Events to financially support quality community events.
- Therapeutic Recreation began at Barnett Recreation Center. Eventually relocates to Schiller Recreation Center and later to Franklin Park Adventure Center.
- Deaf School Gatehouse constructed.
- Central Ohio Senior Olympics started.
- Olentangy Trail between Tuttle Park and Clinton Como Park opened.
- Parkland Dedication Ordinance adopted by City Council that requires park acres or dollars to be set aside when land is rezoned.
- Greenways Planner hired.
- On November 6, COSI moves into old Central High School which increases the activities in Genoa Park.
- Population of Columbus 711,140.
- Wayne A. Roberts became Director, upon the resignation of Gary Fenton.
- Frank’s Park and Spindler Road Park opened with 100 acres of youth soccer facilities.
- McFerson Commons, former site of the Ohio State Penitentiary opened with a saved section of the Union Station Arch from 1893 as the park focal point in the Arena District.
- Olentangy Trail between Harrison West and downtown opened.
- ADA Sports Pad and Playground opened in Rhodes Park.
- Hard Road 40-acre property acquired from Antrim Family.
- Alum Creek Trail between Main Street and Livingston Ave. opened.
- Olentangy Trail’s Worthington Hills Extension opened.
- Alum Creek Trail between Westerville and Cooper Park opened.
- North Bank Park and Pavilion with 11 acres opened in the Arena District.
- New Dodge Community Center opened. Old center demolished.
- Lazelle Recreation Center opened and dedicated.
- Liv-Moor Pool demolished.
- Alan D. McKnight became Director, upon the resignation of Wayne A. Roberts.
- Newly remodeled Barnett Recreation Center dedicated. Barnett Sprayground opened.
- Over 2,700 street trees planted.
- 20 neighborhood playgrounds renovated.
- Weinland and Karns Parks renovated.
- Big Walnut Dog Park opened.
- Department administrative offices relocated from the Whittier Pennisula to the Jerry Hammond Center. Department Operations relocates to 1533 Alum Industrial Drive complex.
- Broadmeadows Bridge is dedicated on the Olentangy Trail.
- Whetstone Recreation Center renovated.
- Redesigned Bicentennial Park and Promenade open on the Scioto Mile, featuring fountain, music pavilion and Milestone restaurant.
- Department closes 10 recreation centers, 6 pools, and Davis Performing Arts Center and abolishes Music in the Air because of city budget shortfall.
- Hayden Falls Boardwalk completed.
- Wheeler and Sycamore Fields Dog Parks opened.
- Capital Kids program became part of the department to manage.
- City residents voted to increase income tax from 2% to 2.5% in August Special Election.
- Mural depicting Westgate Park as site of Camp Chase during the Civil War is painted on wall of handball court.
- Population of Columbus 787,033.
- Department celebrated 100th anniversary on July 15.
- New Griggs Boathouse opened in partnership with The Ohio State University and the Greater Columbus Rowing Association.
- Alum Creek Trail between Ohio Dominican University and Innis Park opened.
- Airport Golf Course is redesigned during the expansion of John Glenn International Airport.
- City Leaders program became part of the department to manage.
- Main Street Dam on Scioto River removed to restore river’s natural flow which resulted in 33 acres of additional parkland on the Scioto Mile.
- Santa Maria is closed to the public. Department was no longer responsible for its upkeep.
- New Department Master Plan adopted.
- Replica of Santa Maria removed from mooring at Battelle Park for the redevelopment of the Scioto Mile.
- Tony Collins became Director, upon the retirement of Alan D. McKnight.
- Department opened the first commercial net-zero building in Ohio. New Wyandot Lodge opened at the McKnight Outdoor Education Center.
- New Dorrian Green opened atop a city underground parking garage at the west entrance to COSI.
- An independent Columbus Recreation and Parks Foundation is established to expand partnerships.
- Paul Rakosky became Interim Director, upon the resignation of Tony Collins.
- West Case Road parkland is acquired.
- Center without Walls model is launched for neighborhoods lacking recreational opportunities.
- Population of Columbus is 905,748.
- Department has 400 parks, 13,749 acres of parkland and 230 miles of regional trails.
- Virtual programs and services are offered to the public as COVID-19 Pandemic closes all city facilities.
- Scioto Southland Community Center remodeled.
- Purchased the closed Douglas School property for the development of a creative arts campus.
- Community Centers are used as vaccine clinics for eliminating the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Pop-up concerts were held throughout the City.
- New Linden Opportunity Center at 55,000 square feet opened in 20-acre renovated Linden Park.
- Golden Hobby Gift Shop is relocated to the Columbus Performing Arts Center.
- Bernita Reese became Director, upon the retirement of Interim Director Paul Rakosky.
- New Urban Forestry Master Plan adopted.
- New online citywide permitting system for special events, block parties and filming is launched by the Office of Special Events.
- Department has 407 parks, 13,970 acres of parkland and 230 miles of trails.
- New Aquatics Capital Improvements Plan is completed with plans to renovate Glenwood and Windsor Pools.
- CAPRA accreditation for department is initiated for the first time.