Paving Projects at the Columbus Zoo

by Diana Barnum

Some exciting paving projects are underway at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in Powell, Ohio. A $7.8 million interior expansion project features patterned concrete and brick paving. And an exterior expansion plan for a five-lane road is in the works with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
An entire side of the Zoo is being transformed into islands complete with a concrete boat channel. Tourists will be able to meander throughout the area in small crafts, passing by a waterfall. Upon entering and exiting the attraction, visitors will be able to walk along a traditionally patterned concrete paved walkway.
“We raised the entire site two to three feet, brought in lots of fill dirt,” said Karen Huebel, senior planning designer for the Zoo. “There’ll be themed paving, cracked to look like packed earth in some areas and donor bricks in front of the plaza.”

When people invest $50 to $1,000 in the Zoo Commemorative Gifts program, personally inscribed bricks record names of loved ones or celebrate special occasions. These donor bricks will pave the walkway.
Other areas of paving will be stamped with everyday things from around thee zoo like leaves, gravel and sticks to give off a “natural” effect. This process of creation never fails to bother the subcontractors, though.
Huebel shared how paving contractors always create beautiful, smooth surfaces for them. But when the job is done, and the Zoo staff takes over, the going gets tough.
“It bothers them when we drop leaves and gravel into their fresh concrete to make designs,” said Huebel. “You can tell. They don’t say anything, they just have to go away and smoke a cigarette.”
After the paving dries, it is painted with acid stains or washes.
Other walkways around the island area will boast colored brick patterns from Keller Farms Landscape and Nursery of Columbus.
“We’ll use an excavator to bring the bottom up, layering,” said Kimberley Fleming, Keller’s project manager. “It’s heavy, heavy work. We backfill with gravel to get drainage.”
Keller’s crew also uses an 800-series Bobcat. Their colored bricks are supplied by Oberfield,’s Inc. of Columbus.
One problem the Zoo has right now is how employees gain access to the Zoo from their headquarters on the other side of Powell Road. Crossing the road is like a Stephen King nightmare. A dip in the road just before Zoo headquarters, makes it impossible for fast traveling cars to see employees cross the road. Likewise, pedestrians are unable to see oncoming traffic until the last moment. All of a sudden, a vehicle is speeding right towards them.
But a land swap with ODOT will change all of that. Powell Road will be moved south to an undeveloped section of the zoo. The new section will have five lanes and a new entrance to an expanded parking lot. The zoo is giving the right-of-way for the new road to ODOT. In exchange, the Zoo gets the right to tear up the old section of road, after the new one opens.
FOR ODOT this means $2.5 million for realignment of Powell Road, but it also means no more dangerous intersection. They had originally planned to improve the operations in that area, but funds were not available. So the zoo swap actually means about $1 million savings to ODOT in land acquisition costs.
“The benefit is that it allows us to build a thoroughfare,” said Ray Lorello, planning administrator for ODOT District 6. “Otherwise it would’ve put the costs into “track project” - a large package deal with other projects.”
The project is scheduled for 2005. Contractors will be able to bid possibly in the Fall of 2004 through the traditional ODOT process via their central office.
“As new construction, contractors can begin in winter months and do paving in the spring of 2005. There’ll be very little maintenance of traffic early on. It’s green field,” said Lorello. “Geometric issues relative to O’Shawnessy Dam and Rt. 257 are still under way. We’re designing it in-house.”
Plans for the old Powell Road section include maintaining a service entry and the creation of an African Plains area. Part of the Plains area were home to the New Hope Reform Church, but a signed deal swapped them acreage in another area for church members to rebuild. The zoo bought the church building and will pay $30,000 per acre for their remaining 7.6 acres while giving a three-year lease to remain onsite until the new church is built.
Contractors interested in bidding on zoo projects, can find about bids in the Columbus Dispatch. A zoo staffer advised, “Don’t wait until the last minute to bid. You’re too prone to overlook something important.”
For more information about these paving projects, contact the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, at 9990 Riverside Drive, Powell, Ohio 43065. Call: (614) 645-3550. Or visit their website at . Contact the Ohio Department of Transportation at 1980 W. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43223. Call: (614) 644-6584 or page (614) 630- 6035. Visit their website at