Thursday, September 28, 2000

$42 million buys West Chester lot of park

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer


        WEST CHESTER TWP. — The final design plan for Voice of America Park will create one of the Tristate's most innovative recreational areas, laced with a touch of history and more than 20 miles of pathways.

        Township trustees praise the community's largest park as a celebration of the former Voice of America Bethany Station's key role in World War II and the Cold War. They say the park will serve as a unique recreational centerpiece for this growing community while reminding residents of its historic significance.

        “It's a living, breathing ideal,” Trustees Chairman Jose Alvarez said after Tuesday evening's presentation of the park's layout by designers.

        Bill Zerkle, township director of parks, described the 330-acre park's design, which included a series of public meetings attended by hundreds of township residents, as “a rather remarkable journey.”

        Mr. Zerkle said that in two weeks trustees will have detailed initial plans and cost estimates for board approval. Those plans would create landscaping at the park, including soccer fields, a roadway and some pathways, by spring.

        The park will cost an estimated $42 million as it is created in stages during the next three to five years. Township officials plan to seek private money and federal grants for historical sites.

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

        When it 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 for the first time since 1944.

    The new Voice of America Park will feature a museum celebrating the Cold War history of the former Bethany Station, and a sweeping, 330-acre park.
    The park will feature a variety of amenities, including:
    More than 20 miles of walkways and bikeways.
    62 acres of meadows, 5 acres of wetlands, 80 acres of forest, and 7 acres of ponds and lakes.
    A 13.5-acre civic promenade.
    Sport fields including 14 to 18 soccer fields, eight baseball fields and four playgrounds with 22 picnic shelters.
    Dog parks and 1,255 parking spaces.

        Township officials originally considered converting the VOA station into the nation's first free-standing facility commemorating the Cold War and the VOA's role in bringing it to an end.

        But last month a community design team studying the creation of a Voice of America museum said the facility should concentrate on telling its own story and not the larger saga of the Cold War.

        The VOA Park design places the former broadcast facility as the centerpiece of a pattern of widening semicircles expanding from the station's focal point. Pathways and historic 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.

        “We're very excited about this plan,” Trustee Catherine Stoker said.

        In other business, trustees:

        • Voted unanimously to appoint Police Capt. John Bruce as acting chief upon Saturday's retirement of longtime Chief Lynn Brown.

        Chief Brown has held the top police position since 1984.

        Capt. Bruce, 46, joined the township force in 1979, and is one of the leading candidates to permanently replace Chief Brown.

        “Obviously I'm very appreciative of the confidence the board has shown in me and I hope to be a candidate to fill the position permanently,” Capt. Bruce said.

        • Unanimously approved the township's first excessive-noise ordinance, designed to control loud music from cars and homes.

        The ordinance comes into effect in 15 days. Violators could face fines from $100 for a first offense up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

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