Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Knox Hill Neighborhood Association Developing long range plans for St Clair Park

Could St Clair Park become Schuetzenbuckle Park?

That is just one of the many ideas on the table as neighborhood residents develop a long range plan for the 18.4 acre park and nature preserve located on the eastern edge of the neighborhood. The park, much like the neighborhood, was largely written off by the city years ago, in fact at one point the city wanted the park eliminated and low income housing put on the site. That plan , because of community outrage, never came to pass.

The Schetzen Verein was where the elite and wealthy Cincinnatians spent their weekend and summers.

The park, much like the neighborhood, was like an abandoned child that no one wanted but had to 'deal' with anyway. The recreation department maintains some baseball diamonds and a soccer field but the park is little utilized. In fact St Clair is one of the least utilized of the cities parks even though it has some incredible nature areas that are largely untouched since the 1880's. The rich German Heritage of the area was erased during the war when Schuetzenbuckle Park was renamed St Clair park because of anti German sentiment.

One of the first goals of the association is the establishment of a proper historic information marker at the park on the site of the Schuetzen Verein . The group estimates that cost to be between 5-7000.00 and believe that funds can be easily raised through private and corporate donations. Right now the only thing "historical' is a painted sign that talks about Annie Oakley and shooting contest but no mention of the rich history of the German Shooting club that once graced the site until 1888 when it burned. There is also nothing to denote history of the site and the fact the land was donated to the city by the Hauck and Deterlie families in 1912.
The group envisions a Victorian garden pavilion of the current playground site with a historical marker detailing the history of the site and neighborhood

Ultimately the association, would like to see the playground equipment moved to a more suitable and safer location at the northern end of the park and the "overlook area", where the Schuetzen Verin one stood, to be home to a historical marker and a pavilion. The group would also like to see the overlook cleaned up and expanded so people can admire the views of the valley with the city in the distance.

The neighborhood would like to see the park become a more educational experience for area children as well. With rain gardens established at the edges of the road to stop runoffs and the planting of native gardens. With MSD plans for the daylighting of Lick Run and the Mill Creek project, Knox Hill would like to see the park become a key component with its nature trails and preserve.
Fountains and public art could grace the Formal gardens site

One of the more ambitious ideas is the establishment of Victorian formal gardens at the buffer point between the green space playing fields and the Heavily wooded nature preserve areas. The group envisions a long formal garden along the buffer with public art interspersed throughout and plant markers describing the plantings so these gardens can not only be a beautiful place but and educational one as well. The Knox Hill neighborhood was largely established between 1870-1890, originally built as summer and weekend cottages the homes were later expanded and became year round home to mostly German businessmen and shop owners. the area remained a German Enclave well into the 1940's and many homes had remained in the same family for generations. Knox Hill is in the process of preparing its national Historic registry nomination.

The Knox Hill Neighborhood Association feels the park is one of its best assets and is a key tool in the revitalization and redevelopment of the area. A new Private School is being developed in the area, restoration is picking up steam, and there are 20-30 vacant lots on the eastern edge of the park on streets that could be redeveloped as well as a number of lots on lower Knox Street which have city and valley views that would be ripe for redevelopment with the attraction of a well maintained park and nature preserve close by. As one resident put it "who wouldn't want to have a nature preserve in their back yard"? This can be a major draw for families who want to be close to downtown but don't want a strictly urban environment.

The neighborhood realizes the transformation of St Clair Park will take time, and money. (Estimates are that improvements to the park, establishment of the Pavilion and historical markers and Victorian gardens could run between 3-5 million), and take several years to accomplish the fundraising and implemenation . The neighborhood doesn't have a 3CDC with deep pockets, but the group has the ability to make things happen by creating public private partnerships with gardening clubs and the ability to raise the kinds of funds required to turn around one of the least utilized parks in the city to one of its finest. Just as the neighborhood is changing for the better, so should the Park.


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