Saturday, June 08, 2002

The people's parks

Memories of the future endangered

        Many wise owls live in Cincinnati's parks.

        But the wisest perches in the park director's office.

        Willie F. Carden Jr. is the owlman. As Cincinnati's parks director he's being very smart about lobbying to keep the city's oases clean, safe and green.

        Budget cuts are making his job difficult. He's already chopped $250,000. City Hall wants him to see if there's an additional $500,000 to trim.

        So, he's doing everything he can to make sure the parks stay open and the meadows are mowed so people can stop and see the flowers, not weeds.

        To get the word out about the parks' purpose and their plight, he has organized a series of tours.

        For Friday's junket, the director invited all nine members of City Council, Hamilton County's three commissioners, various state representatives and members of the park board's commission.

        Councilwoman Minette Cooper showed up. So did state Rep. Steve Driehaus and park commissioners Howard H. Bond, Roscoe Fultz and park board President Marian Lindberg. They saved a seat for me.

        Here's what the no-shows missed: A wonderful three-hour tour of 34 vibrant green spaces, parks and gateways — Cincinnati's living monuments to people power and the creation of precious memories.

Sweet remembrances

        The bus' brakes let out a sigh at the entrance to Mount Airy Forest. So did Minette Cooper.

        She recalled scampering around the park's trees and playing hide-and-seek with her two children.

        “They were babies then,” she said. “One and 4 years old.”

        Her voice drifted off. She wiped her eyes.

        “Those are really neat memories of really neat times.”

        Steve Driehaus lives near Rapid Run Park. In the fall he took his 2-year-old daughter, Clare, on a walk to their neighborhood park.

        “I'll never forget how we picked up leaves and talked about the squirrels and the changing colors.”

        Howard H. Bond's favorite park memory involves a swing set at the Eden Park overlook.

        His grandmother took him to the park “when I was 4 or 5. I went so high on that swing I went all the way around, over the bar for the first time. Later in life, that gave me the courage to become a paratrooper.”

        Roscoe Fultz grabbed my arm outside Burnet Woods' Trailside Nature Center.

        “Let me show you the cement slide I used to slip down,” he said.

        “I was 10 years old then. I'll be 78 on July 4.” And he can still feel that slide on his backside.

        “I just hope,” he said, walking back to the bus, “we can maintain these parks so they can be used by future generations.”

People's parks

        Marian Lindberg held her right thumb a half inch from her index finger.

        “We're that close,” she said, “to closing parks and not cutting the grass if we have to cut more money.”

        Minette Cooper wants to make sure no park closes. She intends for members of her Community Development Committee to tour the parks “so they're educated that these places belong to the people, not the city.”

        People power was evident throughout the tour. Ault and Mount Echo parks are served and preserved by community groups. Neighborhood contributions restored the Hardin Grotto in Annwood Park.

        Similar efforts are taking place all over town.

        Chalk it up to the pride people have in their parks.

        City Hall should take that into account before taking an ax to the parks' budget.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail


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