By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Mike Birchak frowns at the crumbling wall that trims Price Hill's Whittier Garden.
He knows the wall, with stones jutting out and mortar showing in its cracks, is a sore sight. That's why yesterday, when Keep Cincinnati Beautiful representatives vowed to donate money to refurbish the wall, Birchak couldn't help but smile.
For years, Birchak, a Price Hill resident and president of the Price Hill Land Foundation, has dreamed of the day when he will wander through the park and see families playing Wiffle Ball and youngsters cycling through lush green land with swirls of trees and colorful flowers. It's part of his vision of making the area a "greener, easier place for people to live in."
Five years ago, Whittier Garden was less of a garden and more of an asphalted abyss.
"Nobody used it," Birchak remembers. "It was a good place to break bottles."
Today, Whittier Garden is grassy, with some newly planted trees, but not quite up to par.
Fixing the wall, which lines an entire block and varies from 4 to 6 feet high, will cost about $12,000, and $4,000 of that will be covered by Keep Cincinnati Beautiful Project 180, a plan to rejuvenate Cincinnati neighborhoods that need help. Hyde Park Painting and Carpentry is covering the rest.
Project 180's money comes from Fifth Third Bank, which Thursday donated $75,000 to be given over three years to the program.
The money also will go toward tearing down three abandoned homes in the West End and forming a park, painting some homes on West McMicken and some possible work in Over-the-Rhine, said Linda Holterhoff, executive director of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.
Providing funding for the wall is the first concrete change Project 180 is making since it was started, Holterhoff said.
"When you get a project like this going, it makes you feel like you've done something," she said.
Nearly 150 community members have donated time to rejuvenating the neighborhood, Birchak said. The first Saturday of each month, they come to the parks with lawnmowers and other tools to groom the landscape.
But they didn't have the tools to fix the wall. They were hungry for the help and money, both of which came yesterday.
"It's been here around 100 and some years, and it's collapsing in parts," Birchak said. "And when you lose the wall, you lose the park."
The wall is just a start to the Price Hill community's plans. Residents want to add shrubs, trees and speed bumps, among other things, to the neighborhood.
"We always have more things to do," Birchak said.
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