Monday, October 22, 2012

The New Olentangy River and an Ancient Mound

The weather in Columbus this afternoon was beautiful. I took the opportunity to  explore some places around town that I know pretty well, but haven't visited for a while.

The Fifth Avenue Dam removal project has transformed the Olentangy River near the OSU campus. I am curious about the effect that this civil engineering project will have on the river's current downstream of the dam.

I drove to the 3rd Avenue bridge. On the mud flats upstream of the bridge there is usually a small homeless encampment. The water level seems the same as before down here, although around the 5th Avenue bridge and extending up to Lane Avenue the Olentangy has changed immensely. Where there was a fat, stagnant pool of water before, now there's a rapid little stream cutting its way around mud piles.

My main concern is for the homeless. If there's no dams along the river, will there be any hurdle for flood waters come Spring? What about Franklinton, which was flooded several times earlier in the century? Although most of the articles that I've read have cited civil engineers saying that the Olentangy water levels will decrease rather than increase, the wilder sections of the river between Worthington and Delaware give a hint at what the river downstream will look like during the next rainy season.

After visiting the river, I drove west over the Scioto to visit Shrum Mound. This is one of the few ancient Indian mounds remaining inside the borders of Franklin County. The land on which it sits (about a square acre) is literally surrounded on three sides by empty space... because it juts out into an enormous abandoned quarry.

The quarry is interesting in itself. Having been on the bottom I can attest that it looks and feels very much like being on the surface of a martian crater (or how I imagine that must look and feel). An anonymous source tells me that the man-made crater is used to discard surplus equipment owned by the city government: office desks, tools, even dump trucks. The training camp for the Columbus police stands nearby, and I imagine the SWAT people have used the quarry for interesting training scenarios. The gap in the chain link fence around the edge of the cliff had been mended, but the more adventurous urban explorers could probably dismantle the gap handily.