Monday, May 3, 2004

Parks showcase area's beauty

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

New Boone
County parks

Giles Conrad Park

Location: Ky. 8 between Ky. 237 and Tanner Road in Hebron

Acres: 43

Amenities: 1.6 miles of paved trail, river views, shelter, playground, fitness station.

Open: Tuesday after dedication at 10:30 a.m.

Gunpowder Creek Nature Park

Location: Off Hanover Park Boulevard at the end of Sperti Lane in Burlington

Acres: 122

Amenities: Main improved trail (1.25 miles), creek, shelter, playground, parking.

Open: This month  

HEBRON - When the gates open at Giles Conrad Park Tuesday, residents will be able to enjoy 3,800 feet of Boone County's 42-mile riverfront for the first time as a public gathering spot.

Just a few miles away in Burlington, residents will be able to hike down natural trails to a creek when a new nature park opens later this month.

Boone County's two newest parks showcase the county's diverse landscape - the ridges to the river.

The parks were made possible because the land was donated to the county.

Late businessman Giles Conrad donated 43 acres for the county's first riverfront park. The 122-acre Gunpowder Creek Nature Park was donated by Arlinghaus Builders, who developed the nearby Hanover Park subdivision.

"We are very fortunate to have community-minded citizens and companies that have been willing to work with us," said county judge-executive Gary Moore.

Getting the land donated allows the county to develop the parks faster, he said.

The county spent $1 million to develop both new parks.

Land donations also help the county keep up with recreation demands from its growing population. Boone is the second-fastest growing county in the state, and the 80th-fastest growing in the country.

In the latest census estimate, Boone's population grew to 97,139, a 69 percent increase from 1990.

With the addition of the new parks, those residents will have nearly 1,000 acres for recreation.

A riverfront park

At Giles Conrad Park, on Ky. 8, visitors can watch barges float by while walking on a paved trail or sitting in the covered shelter.

"Whenever the contractors were here, people would come in constantly to check it out," said Ken Hund.

For most of the 24 years that he's been the county's parks director, Hund has been looking for a riverfront park.

"Nothing really came along until Mr. Conrad gave this to the county," he said. Conrad attended the groundbreaking in September 2002 just a month before he died at age 71.

"He was beaming," Hund said. "It really brought him a lot of pleasure, which I was happy to see."

In 2000, the county's master parks plan showed need for a park north of Interstate 275 in Hebron, where much of the county's residential growth is occurring.

More than 3,700 homes have been approved in 10 subdivisions along Ky. 237. So far, only 35 percent of those have been built.

"That's the closest population this will serve," Hund said, "although I know people will come from all over when they know that there are trails here and river views."

In addition to the 1.6-mile paved trail, there is a basketball court, a shelter, a riverboat-themed playground and a large open area.

Though a portion of the park can flood when the river is high, the shelter and parking lot have never been under water, Hund said. The county will close the park when the water is too high.

Eventually, an athletic complex will be featured just to the east of the existing park on 88 acres the county acquired last month from Valley Orchards, a farm owned by Charles Hempfling. The county bought 70 acres for $1.2 million, and the family donated 18.5 acres.

In addition to the athletic fields, the county also hopes to put a boat ramp on that property, something that could not be done at Conrad because the bank was too steep.

Last week Bob Machlitt, a county park attendant, brought his wife and two friends to see Conrad park.

"The river is just incredible, and it's all open, too," Machlitt said while staring out over the Ohio River. "You are really just looking at nature all over the place here."

In the woods

At Gunpowder Creek Nature Park, a natural trail follows a logging road used in the 1800s.

"That is a strenuous hike," Hund said of the trail that leads from the top of a ridge down to Gunpowder Creek - an elevation drop of 200 feet.

The land was originally owned by inventor George Sperti, whose most famous inventions were Preparation-H and the sunlamp.

Like Conrad, the park is for passive recreation. The park has a shelter at the top of the ridge, restrooms, a parking lot and a playground.

"At the bottom near the creek we built an outdoor educational classroom," Hund said. "We have seating made out of stone, and we've contacted the schools that it's a resource if they'd like to take kids there to learn geology and about the outdoors."

Visitors can see three geological levels of Boone County when hiking down the trail - clay, limestone and shale.

Though close neighbors are already using the park, it will officially open later this month.


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