During the Great Depression, Cincinnati Parks benefited tremendously from federal relief programs which were established to put masses of unemployed Americans to work. The fact that park projects were already planned gave the City of Cincinnati an advantage in applying for federal assistance. Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2008 was the Depression-era addition of Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park, which today serves as a model of innovation in conservation and display of thousands of varieties of international plant species.
As the “New Deal” came to an end with the advent of World War II, Cincinnati’s parks were left with a permanent legacy of attractive amenities. Of the 135 structures existing in Cincinnati parks today, nearly half were produced during the period from 1929 to 1943. During the war, park development slowed, but post-war prosperity and the “baby boom” spurred the growth of parks during the 1950s and 1960s.
By the 1980s, the parks system had reached maturity and efforts shifted to maintenance of the existing system. In the 1990s, a renewed commitment to conserving and developing our park legacy led to a new planning effort, “Planting the Future – the Cincinnati Parks and Greenways Plan,” approved by City Council in December 1992, and the Cincinnati Parks Foundation was established in 1995 to help finance maintenance of our parks legacy.
But we weren’t necessarily finished with our creative endeavors. In the 21st century one of our most exciting park additions came about with creation of the Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park in 2003 on the downtown riverfront. Also, an ambitious plan for the Cincinnati Riverfront Park broke ground in 2008. With the ribbon cutting of Phase 1 of the John G. & Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park on May 18, 2012 which included the Schmidlapp Stage and Event Lawn, The Walnut Street Grand Staircase and interactive fountain, the Main Street Fountain, the Black Brigade Monument, an interactive Labyrinth, the new Cincinnati Bike and Visitor’s Center and the Moerlein Lager House.
In addition, in 2011 Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point, Yeatman’s Cove, the Serpentine Wall, the Public Landing and the Showboat Majestic were all transferred by Cincinnati City Council to the Board of Park Commissioners, creating an over 2 mile stretch of Cincinnati Parks along the Ohio River.
Today, the Cincinnati Park Board manages the City of Cincinnati’s parklands, and our management vision states that the city’s parks should be clean, safe, reliable, green and beautiful. The 5,000-plus acres of city parklands consist of five regional parks, 70 neighborhood parks, 34 natural areas, five neighborhood nature centers, 30 sites managed by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission, five parkways, 16 scenic overlooks and 65 miles of hiking and bridle trails.
Specialized park property includes the Cincinnati Zoo, Pioneer Cemetery, Victory Parkway Fields, Krohn Conservatory and Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park. Park Board responsibilities extend to managing the City’s non-park natural resources, including Urban Forestry’s 80,000 street trees, and select highway green spaces and neighborhood gateways. Cincinnati Parks offers outstanding outdoor settings and unique facilities for leisure activities, nature education, floral exhibits, social functions and more.
In September 2007, after two years of planning and broad-based community participation, Cincinnati City Council adopted the “Cincinnati Parks 2007 Centennial Master Plan” in order to carry our vision for continued creativity and vitality in our city’s parks system into the future. The plan is a blueprint for Cincinnati Parks for the next 20 to 30 years.
Based on the 1992 comprehensive Parks Master Plan “Planting the Future”, and coming on the 100th anniversary of the first Parks Plan by George Kessler in 1907, the new plan outlines goals for city parks and city development, and describes strategies and funding mechanisms to ensure those goals happen. The plan addresses capital improvements, operations and services and envisions an extended park system of linked greenways and parkways.
Public participation in plan development was sought through a citywide survey, numerous focus groups, a series of town meetings and two citizen steering committees which helped guide the planning process. The planning team assessed other park systems and sought out best practices, reviewed pertinent research, communicated with various park partners and stakeholders, and incorporated Regional Park and environmental initiatives – all to formulate a forward-thinking, realistic and comprehensive approach to the enhancement and conservation of Cincinnati’s parks and public greenspace.
As a result, Cincinnatians can look forward to new bike trails and greenway corridors, expansion of the parkway system, preservation of river and stream corridors and hillsides and improvements to neighborhood parks and regional parks. In response to the trend of more citizens moving into the city’s core, concentration of park improvements in the downtown and basin area and in the Uptown area are too, considered key. All of these improvements will come about with new staff positions to sustain park operations and new funding avenues, including designating a portion of existing general fund tax support for parks. We’ll seek increased sponsorships for programs and facilities; a limited number of new and enhanced rental facilities will also provide revenue, along with new parks restaurants and cafes.
As they stand today, Cincinnati Parks offer outstanding outdoor settings and unique facilities for leisure activities, nature education, floral exhibits, social functions, and more. The way we see it, they’re only going to get better. As you use this site to find new parks to explore, remember: visiting Cincinnati parks is a long-held tradition for our citizens.
To view the 2007 Master Plan, Click Here!