Friday, November 05, 1999

Wyoming neighbors say 'no' to trail




BY SARA J. BENNETT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Residents of Wyoming's North Park neighborhood love their quiet corner of the village. They're proud of its quaint houses and gently curving streets. They enjoy seeing hawks and deer among the trees cradling their homes near the Mill Creek.

        Now, they say that idyll is under attack. The threat: a hike/bike trail proposed to run along the Mill Creek into Woodlawn.

        The trail is part of a bigger plan to create greenways along about 150 miles of the Mill Creek watershed. Environmentalists say trails are key to transforming an industrial sewer into a waterway that is appreciated rather than dumped into. It's one of several topics on the agenda at Saturday's annual Mill Creek Symposium, sponsored by the Mill Creek Watershed Council.

        North Park residents counter that a section of trail proposed to run past their homes will ruin their neighborhood. They fear increased traffic. And they say a bridge into neighboring Lockland and Lincoln Heights would bring outsiders seeking mischief.

        “The peaceful serenity of our neighborhood will be destroyed with this project,” said Betty Waite, one of about 50 residents who attended a trail hearing Monday. “We the people do not want it.”

Much to coordinate
        North Park illustrates a challenge for proponents of the Mill Creek greenway master plan. Thirty-seven political jurisdictions and scores of neighborhoods must be coordinated to help create a trail system that could be as long as 200 miles and run from Cincinnati into Butler County.

        The project, estimated to cost $43 million in its first 10 years, will be accomplished through a variety of partnerships and individual efforts. In Woodlawn and Wyoming, for example, individual communities are developing their own section of trail to run along the Mill Creek's West Fork. In other areas, groups such as the non-profit Mill Creek Restoration Project and the Butler County Department of Environmental Services are providing oversight.

        Funding will come through several sources ranging from private donations to state and federal grants.

        Trails along the Mill Creek will accomplish several things, said Robin Corathers, head of the Restoration Project. They'll provide walking and biking paths that connect recreation facilities throughout the area. New trees, brush and grass would reduce flooding and improve water quality. And getting people to spend time near the creek would raise awareness about cleaning and caring for it.

First projects
        While it could take 20 years for the entire greenways project to be finished, several pilot projects are under way. Funding already has been received for a segment in Woodlawn, for example.

        Wyoming's section of the trail is still in the early planning stages and several routes are being discussed. The one that follows the Mill Creek most directly is the one to which North Park residents object.

        “We see this as changing our neighborhood, and we don't want this,” said David Shaw. “We really love the quiet here.”

        Although she points out that maintaining safety has always been a priority of the greenways project, and that greenways nationwide have low criminal activity, Ms. Corathers knows that some people are less enthusiastic than others about a trail system along the Mill Creek.

        North Park is the only neighborhood Ms. Corathers knows of so far raising objections, she said. But that's why it's important the planning stages be as public as possible and that the pilot projects succeed.

        “I do believe there are ways to design this project that will hopefully make it acceptable to the people who have expressed initial concerns,” she said. “It may be there will have to be some detours around property owners that don't want to cooperate, but hopefully in the long term, the goal might be to get the trail back along the West Fork of the Mill Creek.”

       



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- Wyoming neighbors say 'no' to trail