The Park Board: Time for a Refresh?

  • February 24, 2022
  • 7:00 PM
  • Online - Zoom

Organization: Woman's City Club

About this event:

Cincinnati parks are much beloved. Operated under an independent board for 115 years, our park system is consistently rated as one of the best in the country.

Several issues, however, have arisen in the last few years about the Park Board and how it functions. It is seeking its third director in three years and there have been other staff turnovers. In 2018, former Mayor John Cranley’s removal of a board member sparked a lawsuit, and an audit raised questions about the relationship between the Park Board and its private fundraising arm, the Cincinnati Parks Foundation. Removal of fifty-year-old London Plane trees in Lytle Park reflected the challenge of mediating competing wishes of a corporate donor versus those of residents. The Board’s proposals to develop Burnet Woods in Clifton have met with strong opposition.

These issues and others raise questions about the structure, function and priorities of the five-member Park Board. Why and how does the mayor determine who should serve on the Park Board? How much authority should lay board members have over professional parks employees? What accountability should the Park Board have to the public it serves? Finally, what would be the ideal administrative system for the management of Cincinnati parks?

To answer these questions, Preserve Burnet Woods, a non-profit organization founded in 2018 to protect and promote Burnet Woods, commissioned a report entitled “Cincinnati’s Park Board: A History” with funding from the Stephen H. Wilder Foundation. Written by Dr. Alyssa McClanahan, an independent writer and scholar who has worked as a historian and historic preservation consultant, the 77-page report is the basis for WCC’s program.

Dr. David Stradling, Zane L. Miller Professor of History, University of Cincinnati, will serve as moderator. Dr. McClanahan will discuss 1) a brief history of the Park Board; 2) pros and cons of its structure; 3) its members — criteria for appointment, term limits, residency, etc.; and 4) how the Park Board interacts with the community.  Frank Russell, Director of the UC Community Design Center and the Niehoff Urban Studio and former Park Board member, and Steve Schuckman, retired director of planning, design and construction for the Cincinnati Park Board, will serve as respondents, and Q & A will follow.

Founded in 1915, Woman’s City Club (WCC) is an organization dedicated civic discourse, and advocacy. WCC initiates community conversations, educates people on local issues and moves citizens to action consistent with our values.

Presented on Zoom; the program is free.

Register and receive the zoom link here.

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Burnet Woods

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