Monday, May 07, 2001

West Chester envisions new park, center

Township bought 151 acres for $5M

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP — A vision is forming for development of a new township park on 151 acres straddling Beckett Road, including the steep hillside directly below Beckett Ridge Country Club.

        Bill Zerkle, township parks and recreation director, said the land, including a series of ponds just northwest of the Beckett Road fire station, recently was purchased by the township for about $5 million.

        The money became available through the sale of McGinnis Park, along Cox Road, to University of Cincinnati physicians who plan a medical center on the site.

        “Deed restrictions on McGinnis (property) stipulated that if it was sold, an equal amount of park land was to be purchased to replace it,” Mr. Zerkle said.

        The Beckett Road site was made available by nearby condominium developers and the township sees a critical need for a park and green space in the Union Centre Boulevard and Beckett Road area.

        “When the township acquired the Voice of America Park property (north of Tylersville Road between Butler-Warren and Cox roads) last year, we decided to sell (nearby) McGinnis Park,” Mr. Zerkle said.

        Last week, three Beckett Park development proposals were publicly unveiled. The most popular reception was given to a site development that would include a $30 million community center.

        “A community center is something the people here really want and need and that proposal generated the most interest,” Mr. Zerkle said. The township has always viewed the Union Centre valley as a prime location for such a community magnet, he said.

        “Procter & Gamble employees in the adjacent (P&G Beckett Ridge) facility next to the park will welcome the opportunity offered for recreation,” said P&G spokeswoman Linda Ulrey.

        The availability of walking and jogging paths, hiking trails and other fitness opportunities close by will complement P&G's policy of encouraging employees' to maintain healthy lifestyles, she said.

        Long-time resident Dorothy Roth, 71, of Chinook Drive, called the park “wonderful. We need green space at that location and I really think it's a marvelous idea. ... think about walking trails and ice skating in winter and areas that would be tranquil for older people to enjoy,” she said.

        Mr. Zerkle said architects are expected to take back information and suggestions from the public meeting and return in July with a single park concept for review.

        A final plan and cost estimate should be finalized by fall. Fund raising should begin as soon as a parks development director is hired. Interviews are being conducted now.

        The park is also likely to include a lodge for events, meetings and retreats, a water playground, standard playgrounds, soccer and baseball fields, shelters and picnic areas.


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