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Articles from GHS

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A History of Gahanna’s Streams

Gahanna has a rich history of protecting and preserving our natural streams.  We enjoy the clean rippling waters of Big Walnut, Rocky Fork and Sycamore creeks and their head waters because these streams were protected during our development years.  Historically, many communities built right up to the edge of the bigger streams and they piped the smaller streams.  The result, here in Central Ohio, is flooding and the present problem of raw sewage overflowing into the rivers during heavy rain events.  The work to correct this is and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  In the interim, we will continue to experience the dangers and disgust of raw sewage entering our streams; but not here, in Gahanna. 

In development planning, the city engineers and the developer’s engineers studied the ravines, where sewers were often planned.  The City and the Developer both routinely committed to preserving the ravine for several important reasons. 

  • The beauty of ravines provides significant economic value to the adjacent lots; it is profitable to preserve the ravine.  

  • The ravines provide buffering from one development to the next; thereby one development did not degrade economically the adjacent development. 

  • The ravines provide important storm water management; a ravine’s storage capacity is much greater than any installed pipe.

  • The ravines protect downstream properties against erosion.  A pipe concentrates storm water.  During heavy rains the pipe becomes supercharged and the increased speed of the water has erosive force downstream.  There is a mining process called placer mining whereby stream water is concentrated in just such a fashion to erode overburden (soil) from the ore.

  • The ravines provide a healthy environment to both its neighbors and the lower riparian residents.  Trees reduce summer temperatures, acting as air conditioners as hundreds of thousands of gallons of water are transpired into the atmosphere, taking heat with them.   In winter, the trees act as a wind break, protecting neighbors from harsh winds.  The trees clean the air, produce oxygen, and dampen busy highway noise.

  • The ravines provide a wildlife corridor, thereby reducing auto-animal accidents.  This significantly protects property, limb and life.

For these reasons, the ravines were carefully preserved and sewer lines artistically woven into the valleys.  Environmental damage was avoided.


Gahanna has a history of protecting such natural features.  That is why Gahanna has so little flooding, such resilient property values, such good neighbor relationships and such health and beauty.  On our south is our Industrial Zone, where one can see the preserved stream valley meandering along Taylor Road.  Employees enjoy picnic tables nestled in the native tree lines during lunch.  Industrial developers recognized the value of protecting the riparian corridor and we all benefit from their wisdom.  On our north is the Christopher Wren Apartments.  This large project protected a wide ravine to the south that buffers the adjacent single family housing.  Christopher Wren also protected the wooded corridor along Morse Road, thereby shielding their residents from the harshness of a major collector.  Christopher Wren received a prestigious national award for this project from the private rental sector.  In between we have streams flowing healthfully through Farm Creek, Founders Ridge, Bryn Mawr Woods, Harrison Pond, Academy Acres, Academy Woods, the Crossings at McKenna Creek, Academy Ridge, Foxboro, Stonegate, Gahanna Heights, Woodside Meadow, Woodside Green, and Woodside Green South.  Even in the heart of our Gahanna commercial sector, the bright waters of Sycamore and the Rocky Fork Creeks flow unimpeded and open.


Gahanna is rich in good planning.  From the purchase of our first park, Friendship, under Mayor Joe Spanovich, to the acquisition of one of our last open spaces, the McCutchen Road parkland under Mayor Tom Kneeland, we have enhanced today and provided for tomorrow.  May we continue this wisdom with each new development proposal.



Jim McGregor,

Gahanna Historical Society President


History of Gahanna Flooding


A flood plain is an area along brooks and streams that, during flood events, is occupied by flood waters.  In the early days of settlement Americans had to be by the water.  Supplies were moved upon the waters.  The stream flow provided power for saw and grist mills.  The land was generally flat and provided for easy quick construction. Finally, early builders often did not comprehend the size and power of a stream in flood.


Our Mill Street, in Old Gahanna, is in the floodplain.  In the great flood of 1959, Mill street and many of it's buildings were flooded by several feet of water.  The large glacial erratic boulder in Lintner Park monuments the peak level of the waters.  In the late 1970's, parts of Gahanna Heights experienced severe flooding, causing great damage, including a basement wall collapsing. These, and regular lesser flood events caused the Gahanna City Council to take action.  Council passed Central Ohio's first flood retention and detention law.  The law required that all new developments have basins that retain, on site, the rains that fall upon them and slowly release the water over time, thereby preventing the downstream rush of storm water.  Also, over the following years, Council would authorize the improvement of existing and building of new basins.  This helped deal with the storm waters of pre-law development.  The City kept clear it's naturally flowing streams and acquired or protected the many floodplains, both big and small.  The floodplains also provide for most of our athletic fields, golf course, paved pathways and open space.  Floods do no damage to these facilities.


With each new development plan, it is critical that storm water detention be included.  This protects downstream residents and businesses.  Ponds and dry basins save life and property.


A new technology stores storm water underground in wafer like large plastic flats.  This technology, according tot he EPA, requires a low water table and a soil with good drainage.  Gahanna has neither.  Our water table is high and our soil is developed from our underlying shale.  Shale is like a rubber blanket, so we do not have good drainage.  The shale also causes us to have a high water table.    For these reasons, sub-surface storm water storage structures should not be approved in Gahanna.  Such structures endanger down hill residents and businesses.


Flooding is not a problem where wise policies encourage responsible development.  When our golf course floods, it is fun to see the flags on the greens, their banner just above the water.  The flag bobs up and down in the current, like a fishing bobber with bluegill tugging it.  Gahanna has had wise policies in place since the 1970's, with the recent  exception of underground storm water storage structures.


Jim McGregor

Gahanna Historical Society President




Ever wonder about the big rock in the pocket park, known as Lintner Park, at Carpenter and Mill St. It is a glacial erratic from Champaign County. It was left over from the time when glaciers covered parts of Ohio. In 1959, Gahanna and much of central Ohio suffered a devastating flood. The marker on the rock marks the level of the water at that spot during that flood. When Jim was first mayor in 1983, he began to go through closets and storage areas. In one closet he found a plaque that was to mark the 1959 flood level. Wanting to display the plaque in some way, he thought about a big rock. He called a contact at ODNR and was put in touch with a farmer who had several glacial erratics in his fields. He was glad to get rid of one. So one day Jim and John Robinson, from the streets dept. loaded a wheel loader onto a trailer and headed to Champaign County. They located the field that held several big rocks. They picked one out and tried to load the rock. The biggest wheel loader the city had could not budge the rock. Fortunately, the farmer happened by and offered to help. He had a D8 bulldozer. He loaded the boulder on the big trailer and they headed home When they got back, one of the mechanics noticed the trailer was missing a wheel. Somewhere along 1-70 the wheel had broken off, under the heavy load, without their knowledge. This year, January marked the 60th year since that flood. Gahanna has preserved much of the flood plain of the Big Walnut for recreation uses that can stand a little flooding. This valuable resource provides walking paths, golf courses, athletic fields and storage for flood waters when needed. I think sometimes we forget how powerful and damaging water is. The monument in Lintner Park is a reminder the flood waters that took over downtown Gahanna 60 years ago.


Nancy McGregor




A city’s history is often thought of in terms architectural.  During the early 1980’s, committees in Gahanna debated and struggled to define the City’s architectural theme.  It was a time when a town’s design theme was very de rigueur.  Gahanna and other cities fussed and fumed as they tried to sort out the constituents of our historical building architecture.
The truth finally emerged; Gahanna has no design theme.  We are and were a community of individuals with varied tastes and preferences.  Our wonderful neighborhoods are as different as we are.  Old Gahanna was developed on the grid system; other neighborhoods are cul-de-sac lay-outs and others are combinations. That is a delightful thing, like a jigsaw puzzle or a mélange of stones in a stream.
Our diverse backgrounds have guided our architectural roots and those roots are deeply anchored. One can speak of Cincinnati and it’s German heritage.  Or look to Cleveland and imagine the great immigrations of a century ago. But Gahanna is a rich mixture of all peoples, a melting pot like the Nation of which we are a part.
There are elements of our history that do stay consistent through the decades.  Professors and PhD’s have studied our community and identified those very valued elements.  Those conclusions are contained in studies which are preserved and available at the City Building library.  The studies have been adopted by City Councils and so have strength in guiding us.  As we face redevelopment, we can and should hold on to the strengths inherited from the past.  Old Gahanna, as mentioned, was planned and built in a grid design in the early 1800’s.  The fine planners we have employed have adjured us that we must preserve the grid and never abandon any of our streets.  To do so would decay the Old Gahanna experience.  The experts have advised us to embrace our diverse neighborhood designs and to be open to creativity.  The planners have cautioned us, as we redevelop, to never allow streams to be piped, flood plains to be filled, open space to be dismissed, or parks to be ignored in our planning.  Redevelopment in Gahanna can flow with creativity and hold on to the strengths embedded in our history and documented in our studies.
We are so fortunate to live in such a marvelous community.  May Heaven continue to give us innovation and creativity and help us to hold fast to the grand and integrating elements of our history.


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