Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Residents praise new park's trail

Visitors flock to Freedom's Voice Reserve even before it's finished

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer contributor

Jesse Slauter of Colerain Township (left) and Bill Ison of Middletown cross the bridge Tuesday afternoon on the 1.4-mile walking path at Freedom's Voice Reserve in West Chester Township. MetroParks officials expect the park to be the most popular of 22 in the system.
Photos by GLENN HARTONG/The Enquirer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - Several times a week, Donna Elmore gets up before 8 a.m. to walk the 1.4-mile paved trail around the 30-acre lake at Freedom's Voice Reserve.

"I like the lake a lot. I like to look at that more than cars" and development, she said.

Elmore isn't the only resident excited about the 200-acre park, still being developed by MetroParks of Butler County.

The hike/bike trail, at Hamilton-Mason and Cox roads, has been a drawing card since it opened earlier this year.

"We're very pleased with what we're seeing," said Mike Muska, director of MetroParks of Butler County.

Official traffic counts have not been taken.

Freedom's Voice Reserve, which adjoins West Chester Township's Voice of America Park, is expected to be the most heavily visited of the MetroParks' 22 properties.

Residents haven't been bothered by the construction work.

"We were just getting so many requests" to open, Muska said. "Originally, we thought we'd keep the gates closed until we got everything developed, but that was just impossible."

Freedom's Voice Reserve won't be officially dedicated until fall.

MetroParks is working with Cincinnati-based Roger Short Associates to develop a building complex on the west end of the lake, Muska said.

The complex will consist of a merchandise/bait and tackle shop, a concession area, a meeting room and boat rentals. Work is also being done to install a gate at the park's official entrance off VOA Park Drive, accessed from Cox Road.

"With the lack of sidewalks around here, it's nice to be able to walk on something that's safe," said Karen Varney, a West Chester resident who visited the park this week with Elmore.

Pam Mass, who can almost see her house from Freedom's Voice Reserve, gave up her weekly walks through her West Chester neighborhood in favor of the park.

"Sometimes I come two times (daily), it's just so nice," she said.

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