Park to honor the “underground” past

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WESTERVILLE — The city has property on the Delaware County Line that it will use to honor the area’s past as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The half acre of what will become a park is on the northwest corner of Africa Road and Polaris Parkway. It will be along Sycamore Trail.

“The development of the Sycamore Trail will feature symbolic features including a shallow stream-like water feature, the Big Dipper star constellation, information panels and an installation depicting the North Star,” said said the March/April issue of the Westerville Community Recreation Guide. “The development will be complemented by a wetland, gathering spaces, seating, gazebos and landscaping.”

The main attraction, however, will commemorate the Underground Railroad. It was not an old underground transportation system, but rather a ray of hope in the days before the American Civil War.

“The Underground Railroad (UGRR) was a metaphor for a vast interconnected network of smaller local systems that helped fugitives (runaway slaves) find their way to freedom by providing them with money, transportation, food, clothing, other goods and legal services. said the National Center for the Humanities in a document. “The fugitives, many of whom received no prior formal assistance to escape, reached UGRR sites in a number of ways, including walking on foot at night, adopting disguises, and hiding on boats steamers from southern ports.”

A total of 25,000–50,000 slaves used the system to escape to freedom. Perhaps the best known of these is Harriet Tubman, who led more than a dozen of these forays from Maryland to Canada. The Grio reports that Tubman will be on the US $20 bill in 2030.

Information from the Westerville History Museum indicated that there was a village just to the north called East Orange (now Alum Creek Reservoir) connected by what is now Africa Road. One of the farmers built several barns there that not only stored the harvest and livestock, but also hid people who were once enslaved. More than a dozen former slaves fled North Carolina to East Orange.

For those who fled at night, luminous points in the dark sky made it possible to ensure navigation, in particular by using Polaris, the pole star.

For more information, visit www.westerville.org/parks and westervillelibrary.org/museum.

Last month, the city began using robotic mowers at Everal Barn and Homestead. The city notes that they are safe, shutting off and sounding an alarm if touched.

Sadly, K-9 Fiji, the city’s first police division dog, passed away in April.

In other news from the area, Gena’s Restaurant, 5497 Sunbury Road, closed permanently this spring, after being in business for more than a decade.

The Hilton Columbus Polaris, 8700 Lyra Dr., will have a new 17 Arrows Craft Kitchen & Bar. The name refers to Ohio being the 17th state admitted into the union and the number of arrows in the state seal. Nearby, on Polaris Parkway, a new Blue Agave Mexican restaurant has opened. And at Polaris Fashion Place, the Candy Spot is now open on the upper level, and IrieJam Island Grill (Jamaican and West African cuisine) is now open in the food court.

A drawing of proposed park plans at Polaris Parkway and Africa Road.

Gary Budzak can be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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