Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Road may bisect Hamilton park




By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Despite the opposition of many residents, City Council apparently will give the green light today to the construction of a two-lane road through Millikin Woods.

        Polled this week by the Enquirer, four council members said they would vote for the project at tonight's meeting, while three said they would vote against it.

        Barring a change of heart today, construction of the quarter-mile extension of Washington Boulevard from Millville Avenue to Sunset Drive could begin as soon as the city acquires permits from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

        The road would run through Millikin Woods, a 47-acre park in the middle of a residential area.

        “I'm extremely disappointed,” said Maureen Gallardo, president of the Millikin Woods Preservation Association, a group that formed to stop the project.

        Opponents of the project have been fighting since 1997 to stop the city from building the road. They say it would destroy 104 trees, harm wildlife and create safety problems. The project's supporters say it would cause no problems and would enable more people to come to the park.

        This is the first phase of the three-phase project that would extend Washington Boulevard from Millville Avenue to Main Street.

        The first phase will cost $1.1 million, while the entire project will cost between $4 million and $5 million. Federal funding will cover 80 percent of the cost, and Hamilton will pay for the remaining 20 percent from its street fund.

        Vice Mayor James Noonan and Councilmen Ed Shelton, Richard Holzberger and Christopher Flaig said they would vote for the project. Mayor Donald Ryan and council members Katherine Becker and George McNally said they would oppose the project.

        Mr. Shelton said if the project was stopped, the city would lose the $200,000 it has spent on engineering work and would lose the $600,000 in federal money committed to the project's first phase.

        “It's a tough decision,” he said. “But when you consider what we would lose in funding and what we have already spent, it almost demands that we go ahead with it.”

        But those on council who oppose the project say the city's money would be better spent repairing Hamilton's streets.

        “There are many roads in Hamilton that need repair desperately,” Ms. Becker said. “The bulk of the citizens don't want this road to go through, and I represent the citizens.”

        Mr. Ryan and Mr. McNally said the project would create no economic development and would harm the ambience of a park in a city that has lost a lot of green space over the years.

        “Too many parks are disappearing,” Mr. McNally said.

       



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