Wednesday, March 14, 2001
Show your support for park
In Cincinnati, home is where the river flows.
The Ohio gave birth to the Queen City. That makes this place a river town.
For months now, serious talk and money have been spent on plans to reconnect the city with its river.
The centerpiece of this mother-and-child reunion would be a riverfront park covering 52 acres and costing $78 million.
Acting as the city's front yard and welcome mat, the park would link The Banks complex with two stadiums, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the revamped Fort Washington Way.
Serious talk about the park turned passionate Monday night at the main library downtown. The speaker was George Hargreaves, a re-knowned landscape architect based in Cambridge, Mass.
The architect made me glad I went to the library. My visit was part of an informal five-month checkup to see how plans are progressing for the riverfront park. In October, after Cincinnati received $1 million from the state to plan the riverfront park, I wrote a column promising periodic checks on this work in progress.
Dare to be great
The city has hired George Hargreaves' firm to consult on the design of the concrete decks that will turn much of Fort Washington Way into a tunnel. Spanning 3.6 acres and possibly covered with grass, trees, walls, fountains and memorials, the decks would serve as a prelude to the park.
At first, the architect talked about mundane stuff. Air vents. Sidewalks.
Someone in the audience of 51 wondered if Kings Island-style attractions might work at the riverfront park.
The architect's face flushed. He passionately cautioned against commercialization. His message: Keep it green. Keep it simple. Celebrate the river.
After the meeting, the architect told me, all the great cities in the world Rome, Paris, London maintain their river connection.
His firm recently designed Louisville's $50 million Waterfront Park linking that city's downtown with the river.
Now, Cincinnati has the opportunity to connect its downtown with where it was born.
What if, I asked, we missed this opportunity?
George Hargreaves shuddered. All he could say was: That would be terrible.
Ask Uncle Sam
Dave Prather, the planner in charge of Cincinnati's riverfront park, intends for the city to seize this opportunity. While he oversees the park's design, he's also looking for funding.
On Friday, he visits the Army Corps of Engineers' district headquarters in Louisville.
The Corps could hold the key and the purse strings to Cincinnati's park.
Federal money from the Corps paid for half of Indianapolis' $108 million riverfront park. Dave Prather wants to learn what Cincinnati must do to qualify for its share.
He already knows the Corps can let funds loose only if directed by Congress. Cincinnati has a well-placed source in Washington. Mike DeWine sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. That body divvies up our tax dollars.
It might be time to send a message to Ohio's senior senator. His local office number is 763-8260.
Let him know you support Cincinnati's riverfront park. Ask him to send back some of our tax money. The city would put it to good use. A park on the river would bring Cincinnati home.
Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
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