By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLERAIN TWP. - Near the western edge of Ohio's largest township, you can drive along East Miami River Road as the wide but calm Great Miami River flows a few hundred feet to the west.
Here is where Indians formed some of Ohio's first civilization around 1000 B.C., Colerain Township trustee and amateur local historian Keith Corman points out. More than 140 species of birds flit about the trees near some wetlands, says a local conservationist, and other wildlife abounds.
Here, too, is where baseball fields soon will be built, and the walking trails and a ramp for the first public access to the Great Miami River in the Cincinnati area.
"It's an incredible river, it really is," said Rob Sanders, an avid conservationist and development director for the Friends of the Great Miami River. "It's this amazing habitat, right here in our own back yard, and people are scared to death of the river because of its reputation as a mean river."
That will soon change, river advocates hope.
Colerain Township officials and advocates of the Great Miami River say a new 125-acre park with river access along the floodplain will renew interest in the waterway - and bring huge economic benefits to the township.
The home of Fort Colerain, site of an Indian siege on settlers in 1791, will soon become Colerain Township's largest park, a big step in the rejuvenation of land that as recently as 30 years ago was a morass where local businesses dumped their garbage.
"We feel it's an underutilized and undervalued asset," Sanders said. "People just don't go to the Great Miami."
Included in the plans will be an access ramp where canoists and kayakers can take off on a trip down the river and hit land again 41/2 miles downstream at Dravo Park.
Township officials plan to start construction later this year on the park in the far northwest reaches of Hamilton County.
A $105,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' watercraft division will help finance the river access.
Colerain Township is funding the bulk of the estimated $7 million cost.
"It's really pretty out here, and lots of people don't know the beauty of the area," said Greg Snyder, parks and services director for Colerain Township.
The park, one mile south of the Ross Bridge on East Miami River Road, will include baseball fields, soccer fields and various wildlife-centric activities. Officials plan to build a disc golf course and picnic areas, too.
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