Sunday, February 25, 2001

W. Chester hopes for state money

Township wants Issue 1 help for park at VOA site

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — When it comes time for the state to hand out $400 million in Issue 1 money later this year, officials here plan to be among the first in line.

        West Chester Township officials covet some of the $200 million designated from the new Issue 1 fund to create green space and recreational paths.

        They see it as possible seed money for the planned $42 million Voice of America (VOA) Park that will be the showcase recreational area of the booming Butler County township, and a historical commemoration of the VOA broadcast station's storied history.

        Details for distributing Issue 1 money, which also includes $200 million for cleaning up former industrial sites, or “brownfields,” are being worked out in the Ohio House. The Ohio Senate is expected to consider the Issue 1 funding bill this summer for possible approval by the governor before year's end. Ohio voters approved Issue 1 in November.

        But West Chester officials soon will begin their own fund-raising efforts — soliciting federal grants as well as private corporations and individuals — to pay for the $42 million, 330-acre park, which when completed will feature more than 20 miles of pathways.

        “Of the potential funding for the park the Issue 1 state program appears to be the most attractive so far,” said Bill Zerkle, West Chester's director of parks.

        Ohio Rep. Gary Cates, whose district includes West Chester, described the VOA Park, with its planned muse um at the former Bethany VOA broadcast station, as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to create a unique recreation area and regional historical attraction.

        “What they are doing there fits the parameters of creating green space,” Mr. Cates said. “The park will be a major attraction not just for West Chester but for the region.”

        Besides acres of rolling fields and forest, the spacious VOA Park, located north of Tylersville Road, also will feature soccer and baseball fields, tennis and basketball courts, ponds, a skate park and picnic areas among many other recreational and historical features.

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

        Mr. Cates cautioned that West Chester officials will have stiff competition from other Southwest Ohio communities, and those statewide, who also will be applying for the Issue 1 funding.

        The money will be distributed through Ohio's departments of natural resources, agriculture and development and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

        “I expect the competition to be very fierce,” he said.


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