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Ft. Mitchell Park's Options for Expansion Celebrated, Questioned

As plans develop for the future of General Ormsby Park, the Ft. Mitchell Park Board welcomed the public to a meeting on Thursday night to look over options for renovations.
Board members Bobby Williams, Cindy Burns, Glenn Rice, Robert Simmons, and Tom McKinley, and the Park Board Director, Kyle Bennett, had come up with three main options of updating the park in response to a challenge from the mayor, the city administrator, and council to create a vision for the park.
"The buildings were built in 1981 when the park was built and they need to be redone," said Bennett. "Rather than put money into just fixing things, we wanted to look at the bigger picture. So we are holding two meetings, one tonight and one on January 31, at 6 p.m., to get input from citizens."
Around the Blessed Sacrament Church undercroft, where the meeting took place, were pictures of the three possibilities. Option A shows the park layout pretty much as it is, with renovated buildings for bathrooms, storage, and pavilion, a recreation center next to the current stage, athletic turf on the soccer field, a walking trail around the baseball field, with nautilus machines on the trail, a batting cage and inground dugouts, and 38 more parking spaces for a total of 73 spaces. The price tag is $1 million.
Option B is very similar to A except that the baseball field is turned so that the drainage and sun glare are not as much of a problem, and the sides become equilateral at 275 feet. That makes the walking trail longer. There would be no nautilus machines. This price tag is $950,000, or $450,000 if the astroturf is not used.
Option C is totally different, with no baseball field and fewer tennis courts but a state-of-the-art running track, and a full-size soccer field so that older teams can use it. There would also be no volleyball or basketball courts but it would have one tennis court and a pickleball court. With such a huge renovation, the price tag would be $4.4 million.
About 50 people came to see the pictures and offer their opinions. One after another, the residents said A and B were OK, but C was not really an option.
"I am impressed with your range of options," said Aurelia Theissen. "But it is not fiscally responsible to take on an option that costs $4.4 million."
Mark Wilcox echoed the sentiment.
"This is a park board meeting and I would like to go on record saying that the park board is not for option C," he said. "As a lifetime resident, I feel my confidence is restored in the park board."
Joe Oka and his wife, Renee, took turns with Joe concerned about his tax money going for option C, and Renee saying she wanted to see the park remain as multipurpose park with uses for everyone. She also mentioned that there are a lot of places that people in Ft. Mitchell walk and run, and maybe they don't need a walking trail.
Former Mayor Tom Holocher asked if the walking trail was going to be level. He said there used to be a walking trail in the park, and it wasn't used so it was taken out. He pointed out that if it wasn't level, people might not use it. He also said they shouldn't be building things for Beechwood School because the independent school district has a tax base too.
Rumors had been flying in the community, chiefly that the running track was suggested by Beechwood so that the school could use it as its own.
"The concept of A and B are palatable," Bob Pelle said. "C is amazing." He turned to Bennett and asked where the idea for concept C came from. Bennett didn't answer. "I first found out about this project when we received the smoke and mirror survey last fall. This is really about the running track. And who is responsible for the maintenance, and the liability of the turf? Sooner or later someone's going to get hurt, you can take that to the bank. Artificial turf, the crumb rubber has been proven to have carcinogens."
A survey sent to community members had yielded some results and showed that people, by far, want the playground and pavilion in the park, and, secondarily, the soccer and baseball fields. 68 percent of respondents indicated that they wanted a place to run and walk, and 48 percent wanted the buildings renovated.
Patty Kaiser said she didn't want to see fewer tennis courts, and stated that her daughter was a para-olympian who would like to see more accessibility in all areas of the park. Stephanie Boganschutz said she wanted the park to have options for everybody, and no one should be excluded. Dan Rice stated that he liked the park and used it, and wanted to see the park board spend within its means. Toby Holocher said that he had heard the rumors about Beechwood, and thought Beechwood could do a lot with their $4.4 million. He said he and his daughter use Thomas More College's track because Beechwood's track is always locked.
Doris Wilmhoff had heard rumors that the park board was considering giving the land away to the school.
"That doesn't make good fiscal sense," she stated. "My husband coached baseball and I don't want to see us lose a baseball field. I also think children need to have free play, they need to run and chase and play and have picnics."
Dick Cullison had coached many teams and he spoke up to say he strongly endorsed A or B.
"Our baseball program is second to none," he told people. "There is a huge difference between $1 million and $4.4 million. The people who make the ultimate decision need to ponder that difference.  Also I am concerned about the six to nine mobile homes that will be taken in Option C. My concern is I don't like to see public dollars used to displace people."
Joanna Skeen was the only one who spoke for the running track. She said she started a cross country and track program at Beechwood Elementary this year, and she had to turn students away because their track could only support so many runners.
"There is a huge interest in running in this community," she said. "Running is something you can do if you are five, or all of your life."
Some council members were present at the meeting, along with City Administrator Sharmili Reddy.
"i think it is a good thing that the people have a say in this," Reddy said. "We take great pride in our parks."
When it was over, board chair Bobby Williams thanked everyone for coming, and stated that these options were simply suggestions of what the city could do, and no engineering plans had been drawn up. 
Another meeting is set for January 31 at 6 p.m. at the Ft. Mitchell Baptist Church. The Park Board will meet on February 1 at the city building at 7 p.m. and then the board will begin to put together a plan that it can present to council.  
Bennett said there were three possible ways of funding the projects: phasing them in over time, getting a loan from the city like it did when it renovated the playground in 2004, and paid back the $145,000 in three months, or the board could get a third-party loan. The park board receives a 0.02 percent tax and brings in about $135,000 a year. Currently, it has about $360,000 in the bank.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor