Columbus Recreation and Parks Department

Last updated
Columbus Recreation and Parks Department
Jerry Hammond Center 01.jpg
The Jerry Hammond Center, the department headquarters
Department overview
FormedJanuary 2, 1972 (1972-01-02)
Preceding agencies
  • City Recreation Department
  • Division of Forestry and Parks
Headquarters1111 E. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio
39°57′54.493″N82°58′15.416″W / 39.96513694°N 82.97094889°W / 39.96513694; -82.97094889 Coordinates: 39°57′54.493″N82°58′15.416″W / 39.96513694°N 82.97094889°W / 39.96513694; -82.97094889
Department executives
  • Bernita Reese, Director
  • Paul Rakosky, Deputy Director
  • Eric Brandon, Assistant Director

The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department manages parks, recreational facilities, and grounds in Columbus, Ohio. The department oversees 370 parks on about 13,500 acres (5,500 ha). [1] The department also maintains 29 community centers, five athletic complexes, six golf courses, 120 miles (190 km) of trails, five splash pads and interactive fountains, eight pools, an indoor aquatic center, 14 nature preserves, three reservoirs, five dog parks, and a skate park. [2]



Early history

In 1839, Columbus created its first park, five years after becoming a city. The park, Livingston Park, was made into an official public park in 1885. [3] In 1851, Dr. Lincoln Goodale donated 40 acres to the City of Columbus for use as a park. That site became Goodale Park. In 1867, the city acquired property for what would become Schiller Park in what is now German Village. [4]

In 1895, the Franklin Park Conservatory opened to the public and was owned and operated by the department until 1989. [5]

In 1904, the city formed an 18-member park commission and maintained playgrounds in four city parks. [6] The City Recreation Department was founded on July 15, 1910, and opened up five recreation centers in the following two years. [3] [7] In 1920, the first municipal golf course was established and a day camp in 1927. [6] The Maryland Pool was built by The Columbus Dispatch in 1929, later gifting it to the city to make it the city's first pool. [7] [6]

The Recreation Department took over management of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 1951, but later gave up ownership to the Zoological Park Association, Inc., a non-profit organization, in 1970. The city continued providing funds from the city's general fund, however, until 1986. [8]

On June 6, 1953 the Columbus Park of Roses opened to the public, following all the paths and gardens laid out, and enclosed by a fence. At this time, the garden had 20,000 plants. The park utilized 13.5 acres (5.5 ha), though with 35 total acres including woodlands and a natural ravine of the surrounding Whetstone Park, which at the time was the largest in Columbus with 100 acres (40 ha). [9] [10]

Current department, 1972present

In 1972, voters approved the merger of the Recreation Department with the Division of Parks and Forestry to form the current department to better coordinate the management and planning of the parks. [2] [11] Having begun his term as superintendent of the Recreation Department, Melvin Dodge was named the department's director and began the development of the Olentangy Riverfront to create a park with a floating bandshell, amphitheatre, and bike trails. [12] [11] During his tenure, he helped to create Columbus's current park system, including recreation centers and riverfront parks. [4] [12] He also saw the Columbus Zoo grow into a renowned zoo. [4] [12] Dodge retired in 1985, and was succeeded by James W. Barney as director. [13] [14]

In 2019, Bernita Reese became director of the department, the first Black woman in the position. [15]


The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department has a nine-member commission who are appointed by the mayor that establishes the policy direction of the park. A director oversees programs management, administration, and facilities management of the department. [11] [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zoombezi Bay</span> Water park in Powell, Ohio

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks</span> Park district in Central Ohio

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Goodale Park</span> Park in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Schiller Park (Columbus, Ohio)</span> Park in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

Schiller Park is a 23.45-acre (9.49 ha) municipal park located in German Village, a historic neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. The park is bounded by Reinhard Avenue to the north, Jaeger Street to the east, East Deshler Avenue to the south, and City Park Avenue to the west.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Topiary Park</span> Park and garden in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battelle Riverfront Park</span> Park in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

Battelle Riverfront Park is a 4.1-acre (1.7 ha) park in downtown Columbus, Ohio, United States, near Columbus City Hall. The park was established in 1983. It is named after Gordon Battelle and was funded by the Battelle Memorial Institute.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Genoa Park</span> Park in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

Genoa Park is a 2.07-acre (0.84 ha) urban park along the west bank of the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio, United States. The park, located between Broad and Rich Streets, is named after Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and one of Columbus' sister cities. It opened in 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scioto Mile</span> Park in Columbus, Ohio

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scioto Audubon Metro Park</span> Park and nature preserve in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scioto Mile Promenade</span> Park and promenade in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

The Scioto Mile Promenade, also known simply as the Promenade, is a public park and promenade in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The park is part of the Scioto Mile network of parks and trails around the city's downtown area, and has a riverwalk stretching along the east bank of the Scioto River, from Battelle Riverfront Park to Bicentennial Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Columbus Park of Roses</span> Park and rose garden in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

The Columbus Park of Roses, also known as the Whetstone Park of Roses, is a public park and rose garden in Columbus, Ohio. The 13-acre (5.3 ha) park is located within the city's larger Whetstone Park in the Clintonville neighborhood. The free public park is operated by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

Melvin B. Dodge was director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department and president of the Greater Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.


  1. "Columbus Recreation and Parks Guide | Fall 2019". Issuu.
  2. 1 2 "Recreation and Parks Department: About Us". The City of Columbus. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  3. 1 2 "Early Parks: 1834-1909". Columbus Recreation and Parks. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  4. 1 2 3 Staff Writer. "Parks system observes 100 years of operation". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  5. Miller, Kevin (2017-08-14). "History". Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  6. 1 2 3 "Columbus Recreation Department: 50 Years of Service to Columbus". Columbus Metropolitan Library. 1960. Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  7. 1 2 "History: 1910-1929". Columbus Recreation and Parks. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  8. "2004 Columbus Annual Report". The Columbus Zoo. 2005. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
  9. "Columbus Park of Roses". 1956. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  10. "Welcome to Columbus. The National Rose Show...The Park of Roses". Columbus Rose Club, Central Ohio Rose Society. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  11. 1 2 3 "Columbus Parks and Forestry Annual Report 1972". Columbus Metropolitan Library. 1972. Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  12. 1 2 3 Staff Writer. "Mel Dodge, Columbus booster extraordinaire". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2022-02-11.
  13. Staff Writer. "Mel Dodge, Columbus booster extraordinaire". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  14. 1 2 "Columbus Recreation & Parks Commission annual report 1986". Columbus Metropolitan Library. 1986. Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  15. Ferenchik, Mark. "Bernita Reese returns from Alabama to become new Columbus recreation and parks director". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2022-02-11.