Sunday, March 10, 2002


4 BRs, 2 1/2 baths where the deer and The Kid used to roam

By Paul Daugherty
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A couple days ago, I took a walk around what used to be the neighborhood. I ended up a quarter-mile away, at what used to be the woods.

        They were deep woods, dark with big sycamore and shagbark hickory trees. From one of those trees hung a long, sturdy vine. The Kid Down The Hall would entertain himself there, swinging for hours from the vine to the soft ground below.

        That tree's gone. So are the rest, replaced by Miss Royal Pass Lane. It's part of a new subdivision with a requisite theme. This one's seems to be horses. Not far from Miss Royal Pass is Seattle Ride. And Cleathill. And so on.

        Every few minutes, the trucks rumble past my house. When the trucks back up, I can hear their warning beep through the closed windows. The dust from the construction is everywhere. Ditto the dumpsters.

        The builders level everything. They uproot old trees, then plant new ones that, with luck and care and 100 years, might look the way the old ones did. If the vine were still there, we could swing right into somebody's second-floor master suite. Perhaps belly-flop into the oval jacuzzi bathtub.

        Live long enough in one place, you enter its world, share its rhythms. Deer once emerged early in the morning, then faded into the brightening day. Birds, mostly cardinals, arrived at the feeder in time for my morning coffee and evening beer.

        No deer now, ever. The birds come around, but not so much.

        We've been doing this from Day One in this country. Spreading, advancing, stretching our bald-eagle wings. A couple hundred years ago, we called it Manifest Destiny. Now, we call it sprawl.

        Every couple of months where I live, another farm is sold. The lot stakes go up, the cement mixers move in and three months later, there's a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house atop a former corn field. It's part of a themed subdivision, often employing “Woods” or “Farm” in its title. Developers must love irony.

        It's selfish to be against change when we've already got our slice of paradise. It's like saying, “I'm here now. Lock the gates.”

        But really: Where does it stop? Suburban sprawl grows like a virus where I live.

        Judy Havill knows this. She lives in a 135-year-old house in Camp Dennison, a park-like slice of Symmes Township. There's a gravel pit just down the road. Developers want to put 675 high-priced houses there. The Wharf at Symmes, they'd call it.

        Camp Dennison now has 200 houses, 500 people, the School House Restaurant and the Blue Pig Deli, where for lunch they serve homemade soup from a crock pot. The Blue Pig shares its space with the Camp Dennison post office.

        It's a diverse place; African-Americans make up 40 percent of the population. It's peaceful and snug. People who value that live there. They'll lose it if The Wharf at Symmes is built. As Ms. Havill says, “It'll be three times bigger than us. They'll take over.”

        They'll colonize Camp Dennison with Starbuck's and Blockbuster, too. A mini-mall has been discussed. It's all so familiar.

        Judy Havill is against this. “We're not saying development is bad, but greenspace is better.”

        I can relate. Or I could, a few years ago, until the vine got bulldozed and the deer stopped coming. The construction dust covering what used to be the neighborhood feels like a shroud.

        Nearly 14 years ago, when we first looked at the house we would buy, my wife said, “This is too far out.”

        If only.
        Contact Paul Daugherty by phone: 768-8454; fax: 768-8330; e-mail:


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