My three year old son has recently fallen in love with the trails around Tower Park and by proxy I have fallen in love with them as well. We went hiking this weekend (despite the cold and mud) and it gives him a chance to run, jump, get dirty, and generally burn off some energy so he doesn't destroy our home.
While the recent work to rebuild the picnic shelters had bothered me it did not feel like a complete waste until I discovered some of the opportunities that Tower Park has in the trail system that are frankly under-utilized. It is not that I felt the previous shelters were great, they just weren't that bad and really didn't need replaced.
Lets talk about some of the ways that this money could have been spent instead of replacing what were functional picnic shelters.
Example #1 - the Old Fort Supply Trail. This is a fairly popular trail because it is lined with gravel, is wider than most of the trails, has a fairly open clearing, and is one of the longer trails in the park. At the midway point along the trail (I have marked this spot on the picture above with a circle) is a giant clearing that the trail loops around with a giant dirt / mud pit in the middle. The recreation department has used this area in the past to burn brush but it is horribly under-utilized for what it could be. This would be a great spot for a dog park. During my most recent trip along the trail I saw five groups of people walking their dogs. Perhaps this would not be that impressive if it weren't for the fact that it was 40 degrees and we were there for less than an hour. Having a bench to sit on while their dog burns off some energy in a restricted area that prevents them from chasing squirrels is a much better use of funds than new picnic shelters.
Example #2 - the Motor Poll Row trail. This was a more rustic trail until some recent work to clear out space around power lines leading from the Ohio River (this is marked on the map by the polygon shape). Now that this work has been done a major opportunity has been presented to expand the trail network and open a few additional trails. This would be a much more functional addition to the park than replacing very functional picnic shelters to just create an architecture that is consistent with the new amphitheater.
The final piece that is also horribly under-utilized is the river views and the old pumping stations that sit along the river (marked on the map with a square). As you continue down the Old Supply Road you reach a turnaround spot with amazing views of the river and the nearby pumping stations. Benches to allow hikers a little rest to enjoy the scenery would be a great add. Admittedly I don't know whether these pumping stations are still in use - it appears to be owned by the Cincinnati Water District. However, if we were thinking big we could even consider a foot bridge across Route 8 to the Input station and half bridge that exists (pictured above). What a great asset that sits along the river - whether it is limited to just the views or incorporation of the old water buildings it could be so much more.
How would you rather see your .25% tax spent? The tax, enacted in 2003, was originally intended for street improvements and if we are going to spend it on parks then lets add some real updates to the park.