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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Eden Parks's newest attraction, Tom Jones Commons, has Fort Thomas connection

Tom Jones cuts the ribbon at Tom Jones Commons at Eden Park. Provided. 

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Tom Jones has always been a giver. 

That was clear when in 2015, he donated $250,000 to create an outdoor plaza and revitalize Highlands High School’s “Avenue of Champions.”

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The valedictorian of class of 1963, Jones was editor-in-chief of the Hilltopper, Highlands' school newspaper, when he wrote an editorial saying Highlands’ state championship teams needed to have their own “Avenue of Champions” similar to one at a local university. 

Now, he and his family helped cut the ribbon on another passion project, this time in Eden Park, which is now known as Tom Jones Commons. The 3.5-acre area located south of Mirror Lake and along Martin Drive near the old reservoir, is an important extension of this park because of its many features, like wetlands, new trees, a walking loop, a nature playscape and connectivity to other parts of the park.

Jones and his family all grew up in Fort Thomas, having graduated from Ruth Moyer Elementary and then Highlands High School. His brother Jim and Nancy (Barre), along with their families, were at the ribbon cutting ceremony. 

Tom lived in Mt. Adams for 40 years, and upon retiring from P&G, he began taking morning walks through Eden Park. These daily walks led to friendships with Cincinnati Parks staff including Casey McCann Parks District Crew Leader who would often join Tom, regular encounters with local wildlife, like deer and ducks, and small acts of kindness, such as picking up trash.

Eden Park gave Tom so much, he wanted to return the favor. How could he give back in a meaningful way that would benefit both the park and the community? Tom connected with Steve Schuckman of Cincinnati Parks and Jennifer Spieser of Cincinnati Parks Foundation, and together they created a plan to transform the empty reservoir space below Mirror Lake into a place where community members can gather, recreate, play and explore. 

Tom described the Commons as “A space coming to life offering something for everyone, a true representation  of why I believe in and support parks. Wherever you live, parks make that world a better place for everyone. Be a part of their story. Use and support and caring is your way to say thank you.” We are beyond grateful for his vision and generosity and can’t wait to see the positive impact it has on the park and the community. 


Read the narrative, from Cincinnati Parks:

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Tom Jones Commons Features

The Missing Piece

Tom Jones Commons truly represents the “missing piece” by, for the first time, connecting Walnut Hills and Mt. Adam neighborhoods, and the amazing institutions in Eden Park, so the entire area can be explored by foot. Now a connection exists between the iconic Krohn Conservatory, the Art Museum, Playhouse in the Park and Cincinnati Ballet. There is also a connection between Tom Jones Commons and Mirror Lake. This continues to advance Cincinnati Parks’ goal of becoming more pedestrian friendly. The welcome kiosk will include information about the links to the community organizations in the vicinity.

Wetlands

Wetlands are areas where standing water covers the soil or an area where the ground is very wet. They can be found along the boundaries of streams, lakes, ponds or even in large shallow depressions that seasonally fill with rainwater. They support all kinds of amphibians, insects, and birds. They also provide flood protection during storms.

The wetland at Tom Jones Commons will support the native wildlife within Eden Park, such as ducks, geese, birds and insects. The wetland plants include, but are not limited to, swamp milkweed, marsh marigold, butterfly weed, June grass, prairie dropseed, Virginia wild rye and soft rush.

Trees

Eden Park is also home to a great diversity of tree species, which have been here for hundreds of years. The original forests were filled with oaks, maples, beech, hickories and walnuts – thus leading to the name of one of the earliest residences in this area, Walnut Hills. In an urban environment, trees reduce air and noise pollution, improve soil quality, prevent erosion and provide shade. Newly planted trees and shrubs found in Tom Jones Commons include sugar maple, black gum, bur oak, redbud and flowering dogwoods. These were carefully selected because they will support local wildlife, such as squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, groundhogs, raccoons and opossums.

Nature Playscape

Cincinnati Parks staff Kevin Temple, District Crew Leader, and Zach Lawson, Horticulturist, designed and built this exciting new nature playscape to engage and delight children from 4-12 years old, helping connect them with the natural world.

This playscape is built from all natural materials and contains no hardware. All of the logs used in the playscape are from decay resistant species, like Osage orange and black locust, which ensures this is a safe play space for many years. All species used in the design are native, which will make replacement logs easier to come by. We can’t wait to see children putting this nature playscape to good use.

Cincinnati is fortunate to be ranked as a top 10 park system, however as this project represents, no one is resting on their laurels. The Cincinnati Park Board, staff and key partners, such as the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, volunteers, and the sincere generosity of individuals such as Tom Jones, are working to seize every opportunity to improve our parks, amenities and programs for the enjoyment of everyone. In addition, we want to thank MKSK Landscape Architects and Prus Construction for their work on the project.  

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