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covered bridge in Mill Race Park - Columbus, Indiana

Green Spaces in Columbus

covered bridge in Mill Race Park - Columbus, Indiana
Mill Race Park aerial
Stanley Saitowitz walkway in Mill Race Park, Columbus, Indiana
Mill Race Park, Michael Van Valkenburgh and Stanley Saitowitz, 1992
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50 Fifth Street, Columbus
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Landscape Management recognized this 85-acre riverfront park as one of the top 100 parks in the nation for design, reputation, and accessibility. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh, and featuring structures by Stanley Saitowitz, it includes an 84-foot observation tower, a covered bridge, people trails, fishing at two lakes, picnic shelters, playground equipment, horseshoe pits, basketball courts, and an amphitheater that hosts concerts and performances.

A series of “follies” that become micro-destinations and serve specific functions are found throughout the park. Designed in collaboration with Stanley Saitowitz, these structures include an observation tower, a boathouse, a river lookout, a fishing pier, the amphitheater stage, an arbor, restrooms, and picnic shelters, many painted in what is now known as “Columbus Red.” The 84-foot-high observation tower provides a bird’s-eye view of downtown Columbus and the river it sits on.

Downtown Columbus, Indiana streetscape
Downtown Columbus, Indiana streetscape
Streetscape, Paul Kennon and Michael Van Valkenburgh, 1990
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Architect Paul Kennon was given the challenge to create an attractive, accessible, pedestrian-friendly downtown. Through a series of community-wide meetings and focus groups, the decision was made to return Washington Street to two-way traffic, improve the lighting, and provide other urban amenities. Michael Shirley and Michael Van Valkenburgh completed the design after Paul’s untimely death.

New street lights, complete with banners, provide increased illumination to sidewalks and storefronts. Two-way traffic along Washington Street eases traffic movement to retail establishments on both sides of the street.

Concrete paver bricks create plazas at major intersections; brick sidewalks use contrasting colors for pattern; corner amenities include marble-topped benches, trash receptacles, and concrete planters with seasonal plantings, junipers and pear trees.

Funding for the Streetscape project included an “Adopt-A-Brick” program, which allowed people, organizations, and businesses to make contributions and have names or messages inscribed on bricks. To date, over 7,000 inscribed bricks have been laid in the Washington Street sidewalks.

The Washington Street sidewalk design in front of the new Commons and on 3rd Street were modified by Copley Wolff Design Group with strong diagonal bands that related to the skew of the new playground form. Sloped planters, custom bollards, and additional named bricks were incorporated at the 3rd and Washington Street corner.

downtown Columbus, Indiana walkway
downtown Columbus, Indiana walkway
Alley Walkway Project - 1998
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The pedestrian alleyway improvement program continued the spirit of the Streetscape project and features rhythmic sidewalk brick paving pattern, landscaping, and lighting.

Alley projects can be explored on the 400, 500, and 600 blocks of downtown Columbus, featuring granite-topped benches, goose-neck lighting, and English Ivy ground cover along with flowering perennials planted on trellises.

The bricks that form the alleyway located between Fourth and Fifth Streets (400 block) were a gift from the citizens of Miyoshi, Columbus’ sister city in Japan. Called Friendship Way, the south wall of the alleyway features a neon sculpture by San Francisco artist Cork Marcheschi.

The walkway project was managed by William Johnson of Seattle, who also created the master plan for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Johnson was Dean of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan from 1975 to 1983. He was named a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1973 and awarded the ASLA Medal in 1986.

Explore more green spaces in Columbus

Learn about the People Trails

Don’t miss Inn at Irwin Gardens, open Tuesday and Sunday afternoons

Explore a beautiful and thriving arts district