History of Clinton Como Park
In 1893 the Villa opened on what is now the Olentangy Village Apartments, and Clinton-Como Park. The Villa was a picnic space that was connected to the rest of Columbus by the High Street trolley line. The park began changing hands and its name likewise changed to Olentangy Amusement Park and grew into the largest in the United States. Gradually the park added thrills like a carousel, merry-go-round, and one of the largest swimming pools in the country. There also was an open air amphitheater, pony track, and arcade. The park continued to trade hands and in 1938 L.L. LeVeque purchased the park and sold off many of its rides, including the carousel which is now at the Columbus Zoo. The swimming pool was at first used by the apartments, but was eventually filled in. The area not used as part of the apartments became a wooded lot that was used as an illegal dumpsite for years until its cleanup.
Cleanup and Recovery
Starting around 2002 the first significant cleanups were held to remove debris that had been left over from the amusement park, and that had been illegally dumped over the last 50+ years. To this day the park still has occasional cases of dumping, but the community keeps a close watch over its park.
Cleaning up debris was just the first step in the restoration of this space. After the debris had been cleared invasive species were removed, and native trees and shrubs were planted in the newly created space. In 2012 some of the recently planted trees were threatened by the addition of a buried Columbia Gas pipeline. Though some of the trees were lost Columbia Gas invested more than $50,000 back into the park with larger replacement trees, native tall grasses and butterfly gardens.
Similar efforts have also been undertake at the neighboring Olentangy Village Apartments. There pesticides have been reduced, no mow zones instituted and 100s of trees have been planted to help protect the nearby Olentangy.
The community sponsors frequent cleanups and is home to many dog walkers who can enjoy the wild growing mulberries and black raspberries when they are in season. A search on Facebook reveals several group and event pages revolving around the park, and an independent community web page also exists which includes links for what to do if you notice illegal dumping. The park also has a printed natural resources management plan that should guide future management practices.
1880-Robert Turner purchased the area that became the Villa and turned it into a picnic area
1893-Opened the park and named it the Villa
1895-The Villa is purchased by Columbus Railway, Power, and Lights
1899-Purchased by Dusenbury brothers, renamed Olentangy Park. “Figure Eight” rollercoaster installed.
1904-Park purchases the “Japanese Gardens” from the St. Louis World’s Fair.
1910-Park Zoo added with monkeys, elephants, and bears. Also arcade added.
C.1914-Grand Carousel installed.
1920-World’s largest swimming pool built.
1923-Park bought by Olentangy Amusement Company.
1929-Heanlein brothers begin to lease park.
1937-L.L. Leveque Company purchases park and begins to liquidate its amusements.
1938-Olentany Park closes.
1939-Park begins to be levelled for Olentangy Village apartments
1950s-Parklands not developed begin to be used as an illegal dumping site.
2002-First major park cleanups begin.
2007-Most major debris is cleared from wooded areas.
2008-1450 trees planted in park.
2009-Major honeysuckle removal, 240 native shrubs planted and 100 more native trees.
2010-507 trees planted, numerous litter cleanups and honeysuckle removals, $3000 donated between FLOW and Columbus Parks for Clinton-Como improvements.
2011-270 trees planted.
2012-Columbia Gas pipeline goes in through park. To help restore and repair the park, Columbia Gas spends more than $50,000 on trees, and native prairie plants.
2012-Various entities come together to make a Clinton-Como natural resources management plan. Julie Smiley, Jan Jacobs, and Laura Fay of FLOW are key resources.
2013-268 trees are planted.
2014-Experimental wild flower plantings done, tree planting continues to nearby Olentangy Village Apartments.