Rock on the Range eyes Three Creeks wetlands for show site

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The popular metal/hard rock festival Rock on the Range is interested in using a metro park containing wetlands as its next venue, city officials confirmed.

“We’re evaluating that park space to see if it’s even a possibility,” said Sophia Fifner, a spokeswoman for the city’s recreation and parks department, who said organizers for Rock on the Range approached the city this spring. “We were approached by promoters to see if it’s a viable space.”

The city which already held a contract with a consultant, The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., produced a map showing about 40 acres of wetlands scattered throughout the 1,100-acre Three Creeks Metro Park, according to a map obtained by The Dispatch. The marked wetland areas were within shaded areas reading, “venue” and “back of the house.” Only about 350 acres at Smith Farm within the park were evaluated as potential use for a venue, Fifner said.

Even though the maps show places for the venue, parking and staffers, Fifner said Rock on the Range had not submitted a detailed proposal to the city with how they might use the property as of Friday. When asked if the city might be concerned about the wetlands, which are not in a concentrated area but sprinkled across the space, Fifner said, “We’re giving them an opportunity to be creative” with the proposal. Organizers for Rock on the Range will have a chance to review the maps and decide if they want to move forward, she said.

The park is named for where three creeks — Alum, Big Walnut and Blacklick — converge. More than 100 species of birds live at the park, including owls and great blue herons.

“So this is the worst possible place the city could choose in destroying both restored and original native habitat,” said David Roseman, chair of the Sierra Club’s central Ohio chapter.

Prairie land included in the park was meant to provide a habitat for grassland birds, which Roseman said are “one of the fastest-declining bird species in the U.S.”

He said the city has not been forthcoming with information about the plans.

“We have enough problems with private developers doing this stuff, but when our own city, who touts how green and friendly it is, destroys it — it’s embarrassing,” he said.

Fifner said there have been no public meetings about the plans because it’s too early in the process.

“We don’t even know if it’s a possibility. That’s why we haven’t had a … public input meeting,” she said. “It’s hard to have conversation around something if you’re not sure it’s even possible.”

A Rock on the Range organizer did not return a message seeking comment.

Gov. John Kasich made comments in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch in 2016 suggesting Rock on the Range could be searching for a larger venue, possibly leaving Columbus for Cleveland. The festival sold out Mapfre Stadium in 2018.

bburger@dispatch.com

@ByBethBurger