Sunday, April 15, 2001

Trails planned near old farm

Park district wins fight with police

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MADISON TOWNSHIP — If visitors to the historic Chrisholm farmstead want to walk to the nearby Great Miami River, they must tramp through thick brush and dirt.

        But next year, the trek to the river may be easier.

        Butler County's park district and a non-profit group that is restoring the 19th-century Amish farmstead in Madison Township have won their fight to build walking trails and a nature preserve on a 191-acre county-owned site across the road from Chrisholm.

        The Butler County Sheriff's Department and the West Chester Township police have battled the proposed trails and nature preserve because they have an outdoor firing range on 25 acres of that property.

        “It doesn't make sense to put walking trails near a firing range,” said Rick Jones, the sheriff's chief deputy. “Even with fences and dirt barriers there, you're asking for trouble.”

        But all three county commissioners gave their blessing this past week.

        The half-mile to mile-long trails will come as close as 600 yards to the outdoor firing range, which opened in January.

        The commissioners said fences and dirt barriers more than 10 feet high that surround the firing range will keep visitors to the preserve out of danger.

        “I don't have a problem with it as long as it's fenced in,” Commissioner Mike Fox said.

        The commissioners' approval ends a long, often bitter dispute pitting the sheriff and West Chester Township police against the Friends of Chrisholm, a non-profit group helping renovate the old farmhouse, and MetroParks of Butler County, which owns the Chrisholm site.

        But it hasn't weakened the two law enforcement agencies' firm opposition to the plan.

        Mr. Jones said Mike Muska, MetroParks director, “has not been a friend to the sheriff's office or to law enforcement. We need to spend less money on historic sites and more money on protecting the community.”

        Mr. Muska said he respects the needs of the sheriff's department and has tried to reach an amicable compromise.

        “We feel there's room for both of us on that property,” he said.

        Last year, the sheriff's department moved its firing range from a flood-plagued part of the 191 acres to an area farther from the river, but closer to Chrisholm.


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