A park is a better way to honor Ted Berry than a street.
A street is supposed to help people get where they want to go. Even the logistically challenged can figure out how to get to Ninth Street from Eighth Street. So why don't we leave all the streets the way they are? Everybody can keep their stationery and their maps and their business cards. And we can find our way to a real tribute.
Councilman Charles Winburn put together the hasty plan to name Central Avenue - uh, no, Eighth Street, uh, strike that, Produce Drive - after the first black mayor of Cincinnati. I told him last week that, according to my map, Produce Drive (also known as Produce Way) is right in the middle of the new Bengals stadium.
This stinks, I said elegantly.
Theodore M. Berry, one of the city's earliest and most indefatigable civil-rights leaders, surely deserves something more meaningful than a short stretch of pavement used by trucks carrying lettuce. "This was something we could do quickly," Mr. Winburn said. "I believe in sending people flowers while they are still alive." Well, these flowers may wilt sooner than you expected.
"My understanding is that Produce Way will go away when Paul Brown Stadium is completed," Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said. "Perhaps there would be a more appropriate way to honor Ted Berry than the 20-yard line at Paul Brown Stadium."
There is, and Councilman Dwight Tillery is working on it. He has suggested naming the city's planned $10 million International Friendship Park for Mr. Berry.
This park, 22 acres just east of Bicentennial Commons, will feature winding walkways, a bike path and access to the river. "We see the park as a kind of window on the world for Cincinnati," said Steven Schuckman, parks superintendent of planning, administration and programs. "It is a place where we can express our relationship to the rest of the world, to other cultures, to other nations."
How about expressing our relationship to each other, right here?
"This park - this Friendship Park - is perfect," says Ernie Waits, who managed Mr. Berry's successful campaign for a Cincinnati City Council seat in 1949. "Ted Berry has worked all his life to improve human relations." Wouldn't it be a fitting tribute if that story were told in a setting frequented by Cincinnati families of all colors?
Don't we deserve better than a drive-by look at civil rights? Instead of a token, a street name, there should be a place where we could sit on a bench, look at the river and think. And if we happened to think about the people whose lives have shaped us, well, that wouldn't get in the way of the picnic, would it? There would be space for plaques and statues and busts. And time enough to notice them.
Wednesday, Mr. Tillery told city council of his plan to recommend the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park to the park board. Howard Bond, a park board member, says it will be on the agenda at the June 26 meeting.
As the plan to honor one of our most distinguished citizens proceeds, it will be interesting to watch. Have we learned anything from this great and good man? People from Delhi to Loveland to Bond Hill to Indian Hill have called to say Ted Berry deserves a significant spot in our city. People of several political stripes appear to be willing to work together.
Maybe this is the real spirit of Ted Berry, the real reason to celebrate him. He might bring out the best in us.
Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio, and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.