The largest and most sprawling of Franklin County's 15 Metro Parks, Battelle Darby Creek is also one of the remote spaces within an hour's drive of Columbus.

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park 1775 Darby Creek Dr., Galloway 614-8910700 Homepage

Encompassing more than 7,000 acres, this emerald gem includes prairies, fields, forests and more than 20 miles of riparian borderland along the Big and Little Darby Creeks, two of the healthiest streams in the Midwest.

Residents across the state come for picnics, birdwatching, hiking, canoeing and other activities in what stands as a lovely, versatile green space. Because of its health, geographic position and general pristine nature, it's been the site of numerous expansions and ecological programs.

Here's more in pictures...

View larger image Many of the trails near the Cedar Ridge entrance are rugged and remote. They provide a great chance to spend some quiet time by the creeks.

View larger image Trail-running is popular along the Terrace and Hawthorn Loop trails. Together, they'll give you a nice three-mile jog.

View larger image Tucked into Battelle's dense forests are fox, coyote, wild turkey and plenty of bright, smiling wildflowers. For flowers, hit the forest in spring, the fields in summer.

View larger image Pictured here are some of the vast, beautiful prairies that expand past the tree tracts that line the river. They're home to ground-nesting birds, reptiles, wildflowers and tons of insects.

View larger image Starting in August, the Metro Parks will bring in a small herd of bison. Once a part of Ohio prairie life, they were extirpated by the early 1800s. Park staff is hoping that a handful of animals will open up the prairie, which has gotten overly dense without the presence of large herbivores.

View larger image Another big project at Battelle is the creation of a 600-acre wetland complex on the east side of Darby Creek Road. Currently farmland, park staff will create wetland cells, several loop trails and observation decks. The goal is to attract shorebirds and, fingers crossed, nesting sandhill cranes.

Executive Director John O'Meara stands at the site of the future nature center, which will be carved into the hillside. The center will be completed in time for the EcoSummit in 2012. The park board of directors will select a design firm in July.