Supporters Say Downtown Riverfront Work Will Soon Pay Off


UPDATED: Wednesday January 15, 2014 9:29 AM

Two years from now, the downtown Columbus riverfront will look a lot different than it does today.

The Scioto River will become narrower as it winds through the city.

And there will be a lot more green space - on both sides of the river.

Supporters say the temporary eyesore - is worth the payoff in the end.

Take a walk by the riverfront now and you'll notice a mountain of mud and machinery - uprooted trees and blocked trails.

It's all part of the Scioto Greenways project.

"Right now, it sort of looks like a construction zone, but this is the worst it's going to look," said Alex Silbajoris, a member of the “Friends of the Scioto” River group.

"It took Rome 200 years to build an eyesore to make it work, and I suppose you've got to put up with some of it,” said Bill Lager, a downtown resident. “It's not that bad."

He says the temporary pain will lead to long-term gain.

"I walk here every day, I was born just a mile away, and now I live over here,” he said.  “I think it will be great for all fairs and festivals to get close to the river."

Work is already underway to expand the green space on the east bank of the river, just part of the transformation.

"The Scioto has always been a distant thing - look but don't touch,” Silbajoris said.  “People enjoy making fun of it - it's a stagnant sewer, but you can see the water is flowing now – it’s a living thing."

The removal of the Main Street dam is helping the river flow again - and experts say it will begin to restore the river to its original, natural course.

"As the river level has gone down, there’s been another discovery.  Biologists and volunteers have rescued about 4500 mussels and relocated them to safer waters for now.

Their existence, evident of the wildlife already living in the river - and its importance to help improve the river's water quality as time goes on.

Bonnie Van Meter works downtown and loves the changes.

"You have the good with the bad,” she said. “I know what it's going to look like, it's well worth it."

Silbajoris says the changes are something of which the city and its residents can take ownership.

"It will become a destination, not an obstacle," he said.

The 35.5-million dollar project is being paid by both public and private funds and includes 33-acres of new bike and multi-use trails and green space, right to the river's edge.

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