“Profiles in Environmentalism” is a recurring segment on our blog where we shine a light on the dedicated people who are working to preserve the world around them. Big or small, local or national, every environmental organization works towards the same goal: providing a greener world for future generations.

The city of Cincinnati has a rich history of looking after the growth and maintenance of its parks. With nearly 300,000 people calling the city home, and another 1.8 million Cincinnatians scattered across the metro area, preserving the city’s natural green spaces has always been a top priority for the city and its residents. The Cincinnati Park Board is responsible for maintaining and guiding the development of the city’s park properties. And with over 5,000 acres of parks, natural areas, squares, trails, and public buildings, this is no small task. But the Cincinnati Park Board has a long history of keeping its parks green and clean.

Cincinnati’s first park was created through a land donation in 1817. Piatt Park, as it was named, is home to a memorial statue raised in honor of William Henry Harrison who lived near the city. From 1817 through the end of the 19th century, the city grew rapidly thanks to a rush of new companies and residents heading West. These decades of growth prompted the city to build Eden Park, one of the most prolific parks in Cincinnati, to serve as a reservoir and a center for cultural institutions. The Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Art Academy, and the Krohn Conservatory would all be built within Eden Park.

By the time the 20th century rolled around the modern Cincinnati Parks system was taking shape. The city created the Board of Park Commissioners in 1907 with the purpose of shaping the development of the city’s future parks projects. Many of these future parks were the brainchild of George Kessler, a German landscape architect who gained fame for designing the layout of the 1904 World’s Fair. The city used his original design plan as a guide post for a 15 year campaign to acquire all the land necessary to bring his vision to life. By the end of the project, some 70 new parks, squares, and playgrounds had been created.

During the time of the Great Depression, Cincinnati Parks benefited greatly from federal relief programs. It was during this influx of federal aid that the Krohn Conservatory was built. The Conservatory houses over 3,500 plant species from around the world, including examples from tropical rainforests and desert climates. It serves as one of the biggest attractions of the Cincinnati Park system, drawing in visitors from all over the country to see the newest floral displays.

In the present day, the Cincinnati Park Board is responsible for maintaining park property throughout the city. Their stated mission is to maintain beautiful, safe, and clean parks throughout Cincinnati. The Park Board currently oversees 70 neighborhood parks, five regional parks, 34 natural areas, as well 65 miles of hiking and bridle trails. Additionally, the Cincinnati Zoo, Pioneer Cemetery, Victory Parkway, the Showboat Majestic, and the Krohn Conservatory fall under the purview of the board.

Apart from maintenance, the Cincinnati Park Board also provides educational activities in the form of its Explore Nature! programs.  In addition to summer nature camps, programs are offered to the general public, school children, scout troops, and youth groups as a way of introducing topics of nature to young minds and interested adults. Program topics cover a broad range of concepts and activities that span across the fall, winter, and spring seasons. Students can learn about how animals and plants survive the harsh winter months, as well as the natural processes of decomposition and growth.

The newest park, Smale Riverfront Park, though still under construction, is a compelling recreational, entertainment and leisure resource for the entire Greater Cincinnati community. Its many and varied features that are already open—including fountains, walkways, gardens, event lawns, playgrounds and restaurants—contribute to the emotional and physical health of its citizens; to the economic vitality of the region and to the exceptional quality of life and experience to be cultivated and enjoyed throughout the area. Currently under construction is a year-round carousel and pavilion, the PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground, the P&G Go Vibrant Playscape, a dog park, tree groves, additional water features, and a large event lawn. The park will bring 1.1 million new visitors to downtown Cincinnati each year and will have a positive impact on tourists, convention goers, and downtown business

The Cincinnati Park Board serves as an example of how the demands of modern urban development can coexist with the wide open and green spaces that individuals, families, and the local environment need. Looking towards the future, the Park Board is focused on implementing the “Cincinnati Parks 2007 Centennial Master Plan” which will create new bike trails and corridors, as well as prioritize the development of downtown parks and recreation areas.