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Whose Park Is It?

By Gregory Flannery · November 28th, 2007 · Porkopolis
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  Mike Vorherr runs the Straight Street Hill Climb.
Graham Lienhart

Mike Vorherr runs the Straight Street Hill Climb.



Over-the-Rhine residents and supporters were preparing for a confrontation at a Nov. 27 meeting on plans for revamping Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) was scheduled to hold its final public meeting on the park's future, and some residents object to the fact that the final proposal eliminates the park's swimming pool and doesn't include a basketball court. Aided by students with the Miami University Center for Civic Engagement in Over-the-Rhine, residents have collected more than 400 signatures on petitions calling for those two features in the park. Tom Dutton, director of the center, said a community-based alternative plan has so far been ignored.

"The residents have been very clear in articulating at the past two meetings that they want to keep the pool," he says.

The meeting agenda called for a presentation on plans for the park, after which participants would break into small groups for discussion. It was at that point that the residents were likely to act, according to Dutton.

"When we break into those small groups, we propose our plan, the community-based plan," he says.

'If they say 'No,' I'm of a mind that at that point we walk. This is a showdown. We want to change the power in that room.' "

Proposals to make Washington Park more attractive to patrons of concerts at Music Hall and to residents of new condominiums developed by 3CDC ignore the neighborhood's need for a "family friendly" park, Dutton says.

"We think this is an effort to have the park for a certain kind of people and not for the entire community," he says.

Dutton dismisses arguments that a deep-water pool -- the 3CDC proposal includes an 'interactive fountain" -- is too expensive.

"All of a sudden there's $100 million for streetcars," he says. "C'mon! If these forces got on board to support the kids in the neighborhood, they'd find a way to make it happen."

Two Kinds of Races
Ohio Democrats are eager to win the support of Roman Catholics in next year's presidential election. The effort is already underway. The Hamilton County Democratic Party hosted a meeting Nov. 24 of Catholic Democrats. An e-mail from Caleb Faux, the party's executive director, exhorted the faithful to make sure conservatives didn't repeat their soul-stealing miracle of the last election.

"Ohio Catholics were the target of a multi-million dollar campaign to swing them toward the Republican Party in 2004 by demonizing the Democratic nominee," Faux wrote. "Let's not let that happen again. This meeting is designed to be a beginning of our defense against such tactics."

Dr. Patrick Whelan, executive director of Catholic Democrats and a member of the national party's Faith Advisory Committee, attended the meeting at the law office of Tim Burke, chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

The 2007 running of the Straight Street Hill Climb didn't see the two-minute barrier broken, but some runners got pretty close. Begun some 30 years ago by the Clifton Track Club, the race returned Nov. 18 after a six-year hiatus. The race is part of the Cincinnati Hill Climb Series, a new year-round series of hill climbs that will culminate next fall in the awarding of King of the Hill trophies and the Cincinnati Masochist Award.

Doug Newberry, president of EventFund LLC, which organized the series, described the 0.35-mile steep, uphill course on Straight Street as particularly grueling.

"It's two minutes of self-inflicted torture, and there's nothing the United Nations can do about it," Newberry said.

In addition to T-shirts and free liquid refreshments after the race, organizers warned runners that completion of the run was far from a sure thing.

"Please note, however, that the series registration is not transferable if, for example, you collapse halfway up Straight Street," literature for the event said.

Holden Marsh finished the race in 2:22, followed by Greg McCormick at 2:28 and Zach Smith at 2:40. For full results, visit www.StraightStreetHillClimb.com. Proceeds from the Cincinnati Hill Climb Series benefit the American Lung Association of Ohio.

For more information on grassroots efforts to protect parks from The Man or to run up impossibly steep streets, check out CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at blogs.citybeat.com/Porkopolis.



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