Wednesday, August 02, 2000

Park to mark history of VOA

Now-silent station was Cold War weapon

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — This Butler County community, once home to America's key Cold War radio weapon, is planning a historically unique park honoring its former global influence.

        West Chester Township officials will unveil a design plan for its new Voice of America Park Thursday that creates a recreational area centered on the former Voice of America Bethany Station.

        “This is really extraordinary,” said West Chester Township Parks Director Bill Zerkle. “It commemorates the important role the Voice of America has played in our nation's history.”

        Mr. Zerkle said the VOA-inspired park design was “incredibly unique” while meeting the recreational and community needs of Butler County's fastest growing township.

        “It promises to be not just a special place but many special places,” he said in reference to the many unusual historical and landscaping features of the 330-acre park just north of Tylersville Road.

        When it first began broadcasting pro-democracy, short-wave radio broadcasts around the world during World War II, the Bethany Station was the most powerful transmitter ever.

        But in 1994, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the VOA station shut down transmitters that had hummed nonstop since 1944.

        Earlier this year, West Chester officials announced that the VOA headquarters was being considered as the site for the nation's first free-standing facility commemorating the Cold War and the VOA's role in bringing it to an end.

        The VOA Park design places the former Bethany Station broadcast facility as the centerpiece of a pattern of widening semicircles expanding from the station's focal point. Pathways and historical gardens align with transmission directions beaming from the station eastward toward Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Russia during World War II and the Cold War.

        Other portions of the entire 625-acre VOA site are being developed by Butler County MetroParks, private developers and Miami University.

        Cost estimates for the VOA Park are still be calculated, said Mr. Zerkle, but the park will likely be built in phases — all of which could be completed in five years.

        West Chester Township Trustee Catherine Stoker favors both the historically laced park design and the creation of a Cold War museum at the former Bethany Station headquarters.

        “It pays tribute to the history of the VOA facility. It's designed to make sure no one forgets ... the role it played in assuring freedom for the entire world,” said Ms. Stoker.

        The VOA park design, developed by the Cincinnati-based Human Nature Inc., will be unveiled to the public at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 7600 Princeton-Glendale Road.


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