Over-the-Rhine resident Tim Mara is an attorney who is active in many environmental organizations.
The proposed Cincinnati Parks Levy is, in actually, a proposal which could devastate our park system. It is a scheme to open up our treasured parks to development for the profit of a few. Although some of the projects listed by levy proponents - such as the bicycle trails - are worthy of public support, much of the tax revenue would be used to destroy acres of trees in our parks to provide sites for restaurants, beer gardens, and other so-called improvements that should have no place in our historic city parks.
An example is Burnet Woods, where the mayor's proposal calls for a restaurant and additional park roads and parking lots that can only be implemented by clearing wooded areas. The wholesale loss of trees could ruin Burnet Woods as we know it and destroy the habitat for some of the 150 species of birds found in the park. The list of birds found in the park is so impressive that Burnet has been designated by the Audubon Society as an "Important Birding Area," a rare honor for such an urban location.
Our parks department is in desperate need of additional revenue to repair park roads, update restroom and picnic facilities, and plant thousands of new trees to replace those lost to the emerald ash borer. But, as proposed, the park levy would instead repurpose and exploit our parks as business opportunities. Tax proponents are counting on park supporters to back the levy out of the mistaken belief that by doing so they are supporting the environment when, in reality, they are being duped into enabling the city to transform these quiet nature preserves into something quite different. Mayor John Cranley cites Washington Park as the model for what our parks would become if the park levy passes. But be careful for what you wish. Washington Park has been transformed into the functional equivalent of a county fairgrounds or amusement park, with concerts several days a week and an almost-constant menu of other programmed activities. Similarly, the mayor wants to transform other parks into places "bursting with activity" as a catalyst for development.
Our parks have been and should remain beyond the reach of developers and their business ventures and in the safe hands of those who cherish the natural environment for all it has to offer. In our zeal to support our city parks let's not unwittingly provide the money for their undoing.