By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - After surviving a six-year fight with opponents, the city's project to build a quarter-mile, two-lane road through Millikin Woods is under way.
Thirty-one trees in the road's path have been removed, with 74 more to be cut down within the next week.
Hamilton got the green light April 14 from the U.S. Department of Interior's National Park Service to proceed with the project. The agency approved the city's application for permits needed to build the road through the 47-acre park.
The city immediately removed 31 shagbark hickory trees, which federal regulations prohibit being cut down between April 15 and Sept. 15, the nesting season for the Indiana bat, an endangered species.
The project has sparked strong opposition from some residents, who formed the Millikin Woods Preservation Association in 1997. The group, with more than 150 members, succeeded in postponing the project for four years, but could not stop it.
"It's a terrible disappointment," said Maureen Gallardo, association president. "It's been a long haul and a long fight."
The project will result in an extension of Washington Boulevard through the center of Millikin Woods. Some existing portions of Washington Boulevard will be repaved.
The project will cost $1 million, with a grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission paying for 54 percent and the city paying the rest.
Opponents have complained it will harm wildlife, damage the park's ambience and cause safety problems for people using the park.
"They're going to destroy the park," Gallardo said. "They're expecting 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles driving through the park per day. That's going to change things not just for the park, but for the neighborhoods around the park."
After the last of the 105 trees are removed, a pedestrian underpass will be built to allow people to walk from one side of the park to the other without crossing the road.
Construction of the new road will begin in August. The project will be completed in November, Collins said.
The agreement with the National Park Service requires the city to plant 100 trees - some in Millikin Woods and some in other parts of the city.
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