Collage of photos about the park

Matthew Davis (upper left) is die-hard mountain biker and also a Scioto River preservationist.

Matthew Davis of Upper Arlington is a die-hard mountain biker and dirt biker. He also considers himself a Scioto River preservationist. Especially for the areas near his home which are cratered by several expansive and deep limestone quarries, and considered by some to be awe-inspiring when standing on their precipices.

Long before Quarry Trails Metro Park opened in 2021, Davis raced through here on bike trails he helped build with a shovel and hard work. Little did he know back then that Quarry Trails Metro Park would be paired (so to speak) with a mixed-use development.

Quarry Trails is just west of the Scioto River in Grandview becoming Columbus’s 20th metro park. But also emerging from the sandy rubble off Trabue Road is “Project QT.” A $650-million dollar mix of condos, office space and retail.

When the Project QT’s foundations and basic structures first appeared, some fans of Columbus Metro Parks took pause, some mockingly laughed in disgust. The newest metro park would be different from the others. Dominated by $1,800-a-month single bedrooms and a possibly a Marshalls.

Davis believes Columbus Metro Parks and the developer building Project QT – Thrive Companies, formerly Wagenbrenner Development – somehow found a way to trash what could have been a far more awe-inspiring metro park in the heart of a region which may add another million residents in two decades.

“It looks horrible. At first, they told everyone it was going to be a metro park and there was going to be just a few homes and minimal development. Not this whole massive development in this tiny little park,” said Davis. “They ruined it for everyone who was here first.”

Besides activists like Davis, historians are scoffing at Quarry Trails, as well. Wayne Carlson, a former trustee for the Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society, still can’t believe that Trabue Dublin LLC, the mining company which previously owned the property, sold 420 acres to Thrive Companies and  just 180 acres to Columbus Metro Parks.

“When you look at Quarry Trails, half of that or more is development,” said Carlson. “There are some huge buildings inside that and it’s like, ‘What?’ That doesn’t make sense. That whole quarry should have been given to the city.”

Davis recalled a day when security working for Shelly Mining Company, which has mined these quarries for decades, chased him away from its still active quarry. He ducked for cover in a nearby wooded grove. Suddenly finding himself surrounded by weathered gravestones, some two centuries old. 

“I was sitting on a top of a mausoleum, a big tomb,” he said. “I would never ride my bike in a cemetery. I found it by accident. When I first found myself there, I apologized to the deceased and tried to make my peace with them.”

Davis is convinced Native American grave sites are nearby, suggesting these burial grounds could be thousands of years old. Further up from the Scioto is the impressive Shrum Mound, what anthropologists theorize is an effigy to a far-off mountain, built by Ohio’s most mysterious first peoples, The Moundbuilders.

Davis began telling anyone who would listen he had found a long-forgotten graveyard. And when the bulldozers first arrived in 2020, he felt obligated to find out if Columbus Metro Parks was aware of the white settlers’ burials.

Davis approached the newly-arrived park rangers in their distinctive bland hunter-green button downs, and said, “I’m surprised you guys didn’t just bulldoze the cemetery and gravel it over like you do everything else around here.”

Under their chino hats their facial expressions went weird, said Davis. As if he had just let the cat out of the bag.

Davis shrugged, telling them, “I think I got to the story before you guys could cover it up.”

Quarry Trails and Project QT are still in flux, some areas still in a building phase. Related to Quarry Trails is the emergence of RAPID 5, or “River and Parks Imagination Design”, and now led by Ohio’s pandemic hero Dr. Amy Acton.

No doubt, RAPID 5 will be the region’s greatest endeavor to reshape Central Ohio’s waterways and bordering green spaces.

“A vision for one regional park system along our five major waterways,” states RAPID 5’s mission. “Knitting all five Central Ohio waterways into a single cohesive greenway system – one infused with exciting new ideas, expanded access… Our goal is to create the largest inter-connected park system in the country… When complete, every resident in the region will be within 1.5 miles of a park or greenway.”

Essentially creating parks and trails up and down Central Ohio’s five major rivers – the Scioto, Big Darby, Alum Creek, Olentangy and Big Walnut. A major and costly undertaking. But will these parks and trails also be paired with mixed-use development?

Back in July, RAPID 5 announced another major donation from a local powerhouse. A $1 million contribution from, you guessed it, Thrive Companies

“This gift catapults RAPID 5 from a vision to a movement,” stated Dr. Amy Acrton in a press release. “RAPID 5’s vision is to connect us to nature and one another like never before.”

Davis says he will continue to impress upon Columbus Metro Parks, urging them to listen to those who lived Quarry Trails before it also became Project QT.

“In my eyes RAPID 5 has to deal with a disaster of a park that was poorly planned out,” he said. “They should have reached out to the mountain bike community and asked them what type of features and terrain they would like to ride on in the park.”