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Cincinnati area parks a growing community asset

Cincinnati is known for its great park system. The Cincinnati Park Board boasts 70 neighborhood parks, five regional parks and 34 nature preserves. This doesn’t include the additional 16,000-plus acres of parks (80+% are dedicated natural areas) in the Hamilton County system.

Over the years both systems have seen a strong usership of the parks, and have gradually expanded their respective systems in quantity and available uses. Hamilton County has begun implementing mountain bike trails in their parks. Cincinnati in the mean time is building what will become the crowning jewel (Central Riverfront Park) for the already impressive Cincinnati Park System.

The Central Riverfront Park will then be connected with the nearly 1.5 miles of existing riverfront parks that stretch from Downtown through the East End. These parks will then soon be connected into the Ohio River Bike Trail that will introduce a dedicated bike trail from Downtown all the way to the Little Miami Scenic Trail (aka Loveland Bike Trail).

Ohio River Trail Map (click for larger version) – Provided

In 2008 more Hamilton County residents used the county’s parks than in any other year in the past two decades. In the recent University of Cincinnati study, 96% of respondents said that they or a member of their family had visited a park in the Hamilton County Park District in the past year.

The two systems combined make for one of Cincinnati’s strongest assets. They are great resources for the region and offer a wide variety of outdoor activities for people and nature preserves for the environment. In that same survey the most popular Hamilton County park was Winton Woods.

  • You can help make the Ohio River Bike Trail reality by making a secure, tax-deductible donation to The Ohio River Way on their website. $12m of the $16m needed has been identified to bring the trail from Newtown to Lunken Airport. The remaining $4m is needed to complete the final leg from Lunken to Downtown.
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Lytle Park plan taking root

Lytle Park is rich with history and is poised for a face lift. The park sits on the site of the Lytle family homestead that was built back in 1809. The homestead site then became known as Lytle Square and was then owned by the City of Cincinnati in 1905.

Lytle Square was then marked to be demolished to make way for the connection of I-71 to Ft. Washington Way. Public protests saved the parkspace and led the creation of what is known to be one of the first uses of air-rights over an expressway in the nation. Lytle Tunnel nows runs underneath this small yet important park in the south-eastern portion of Downtown.

The park also boasts an 11-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln that was a gift to the City from the Taft family. The Taft family connections don’t end there though as the Taft Museum of Art is located on the eastern edge of the park.

The park is now in the process of a master plan that will give the park a new look with new features. A couple new water features are planned, a new stair connection to Lytle Street (GoogleMap), new garden space, new streetscape along 4th, and more open lawn spaces for creative use are some of the key features of the plan.

At a November 20th public meeting the plan was “well-received” and no major changes were suggested. No specific timetable, budget or financing has been set for the changes, but the next step is to finalize a master plan with more specifics that will be taken to the Cincinnati Park Board for approval.

Preliminary Lytle Park Master Plan (259kb)

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Washington Park expansion

Washington Park offers a great opportunity for Over-the-Rhine. It is a historic park that has been owned, by the City, since 1855. The park boasts Civil War monuments, a historic bandstand, and some beautifully mature trees.

On the other hand the park has been plagued with perceived safety issues and an overall lack of investment in the surrounding area. This is rapidly changing with the massive investment from 3CDC and others. New residents, businesses, and a new School of Creative and Performing Arts are all offering the park and the neighborhood a fresh chance at new life.

Washington Park Conceptual Plan – Image provided by 3CDC

Washington Park Elementary once sat on the northern most portion of Washington Park and essentially cut Washington Park off from its northern neighbors. The demolition, of Washington Park Elementary, now offers an opportunity to expand the park where the school once sat. At the same time it will allow for a potential solution to another problem for new residents, businesses, and established destinations in the area (i.e. Music Hall, Memorial Hall, etc) – parking.

The expansion plan right now is to build a garage, underneath the expanded park, that would create 600-700 parking spaces. The total project cost is pegged around $25-million and a time line for completion will be created following more community input on the final plan.

This is all made possible by a recent agreement between Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Park Board with 3CDC. CPS has agreed to permanently transfer the title for the former school site to the Park Board.