WORTHINGTON -- What was once a undesirable marshy area, Olson Park has been delighting Worthingtonians and visitors alike since 1950.
That's when Worthington giant and industrialist E.O. Olson donated a massive 55.1-acre tract of land to the city to use as park property. The once wet, sloppy area had been transformed by the dumping of dredged silt from the bottom of Lake Okabena, which raised the land level and created the pleasant, picturesque park that exists today.
Additions of 10 acres and about 2.5 acres, respectively, have been made, rounding out the green space. Further camping amenities have been added, as the park now boasts 63 camping spurs with electrical outlets, water, a dump station, handicap-accessible restrooms and one central hydrant. There are also five sites designated for tenting, playground equipment installed in 2001 and a large picnic shelter.
On the morning of July 19, there were already more than a dozen campsites occupied, with wood set out for evening fires and kids tearing around on bicycles. One of the campsites was occupied by Frances Henrichs and her husband, who reside in Little Rock, Iowa.
"We come at least every two weeks," Henrichs said. "It is a nice park and close to home. It's kept up good and has nice shade trees."
Although Heinrichs and her husband don't partake in lake-related activities, they do enjoy the simpler things.
"We sit back and relax, do some shopping -- but we're not much into the water," she explained. "We like to watch the boats go by and get away from the farm for a while."
No matter where one camps in the park, beautiful views of the lake, the sunset or the rest of the park are afforded. The Sunset Park boat launch is just across "The World's Strongest Bicycle Bridge," and a fishing dock also extends into Sunset Bay from the park. The fenced dog run, "Puppy Park," lies at the southern entrance to the park, and further fishing spots abound along the shore of Mudhole Bay.
A major park feature is the running/biking trail that winds through the park, past the disc golf course and Puppy Park, and branches off, allowing users to continue far down First Avenue Southwest and to the lake. The other portion ends in the leafy residential neighborhood at Bay Street and Summit Avenue.
More amenities include a small horseshoe pit located near the picnic shelter and park benches that beckon throughout. Picnic tables and grilling stations are available at every campsite.
Once the new county trail is complete, avid fitness seekers will be able to continue out of the park and down Crailsheim Drive, Oxford Street, through Centennial Park and back to the lakefront. For those that want to try a different activity that is steps away from the campground, the Sunset Bay Disc Golf Course may appeal. Disc golfing is quite popular among area youths and adults alike, and since its opening in 2009, the course has provided another positive and challenging recreational activity for Worthington residents and campground users.
The largest park in Worthington with one of the most picturesque views continues to offer relaxing recreational activities and ample space to camp -- under the stars, or in a camper.