Friday, July 27, 2012

Washington Park: Finally a Place for All

The Entrance Featuring Rookwood Tiles
      I first heard about a renovation of Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine while paying a visit to the Schickel Design Company in 2007 that faces the then dilapidated city park.  When the plans were released in 2010, I was excited about what the area was to become.  On Friday, July 6, 2012 the vision came to life with the opening of the city's latest reconstruction of Washington Park.

Hand-Painted Silk Flags
for the Park Opening
      The opening coincided with the city's hosting of the World Choir Games.  Hand-painted silk flags helped draw attention to the central feature, a historic American bandstand completely restored and modernized.  The banners displayed the works of local artists telling the story of a person or organization associated with the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.  The flags remain in the park until September 2012.  

The Historic Bandstand
A Canal Boat in the Children's Play Area
They radiate to other areas including a playground with a mini castle to climb through along with other sculptures representing the Queen City's heritage, and a connection to the park's 7,000 square foot interactive water area. That's where you'll find 130 pop up water jets synchronized to music and lights.  All was definitely well thought out for children of various ages.  

The Interactive Water Area is a Standout
Dexter Needs a Little More Convincing On the Dog Park
The city's first dog park (Dexter wasn't particularly happy to hear that) supplies entertainment for the canines as well as spectators.  It will more than likely become an area to show off the city's finest.  The demolition of Washington Park Elementary School added more space to the now eight-acre urban oasis allowing for a Civic Green for recreation, events, and enjoying performances on the open-air stage.  Musical events continue throughout the summer.  With Music Hall as the backdrop to the West, there's a plaza stretching out in front for more outdoor events.  Oh—and did I mention that there's a parking garage underneath with spaces and aisles that are actually wide enough for today's SUV's!  History is also still 
Monuments From Another Era
a part of the park with monuments, a Civil War cannon, and original stone pillars marking the entrance to the park on 12th Street.  A 12-inch iron fence encloses the urban space much as iron fences have done so since its acquisition by the city in 1855.

      Of course, the park has much to live up to in the future.  It's a boost for those residents, both old and new, living in OTR.  It's also uplifting for anyone walking through and enjoying this showcase of technology for modern urban parks.  But can it be maintained for the long term keeping the loiterers, drug dealers, panhandlers, and protesters from coming back?  The park is overseen partly by 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation), a non-profit organization committed to working with the City of Cincinnati on revitalizing the downtown urban core.  They're cooperating hand-in-hand with the park board.  The key is to make it a bustling center for activity in the area.  That will be made possible by citizens using and maintaining its features responsibly.  The park is open 7am to 11pm daily and those hours will be enforced by six 24-hour Park Ambassadors hired by the park board.  They will also be welcoming guests, giving directions, troubleshooting problems, and picking up trash.  Security is a priority and it is state of the art with 40 video cameras throughout monitored by city and park police.  Special events will be handled much as any other public venue in the city.  

      A big concern is whether all of the diverse citizens of the OTR neighborhood will feel welcomed in this new space.  Walking through a couple of times already, I felt it was a place where all could find their own piece of the park.  I think it's been designed to welcome all, no matter what our status or lifestyle.

To learn more about 3CDC:

No comments: