Here for You: Great Parks’ 2021 in Review

2021 marked a tremendous year for Great Parks of Hamilton County, and it wouldn’t be possible without you – our park guests. This year, we were able to share with you new programs, complete projects and host adventures that got people outside in ways they hadn’t experienced before.

Construction Begins on the Beechmont Bridge Connector

Six individuals pick up shovels full of dirt, marking the groundbreaking of construction on the Beechmont Bridge Connector.

Early in 2021, Great Parks shared that we started construction of the final extension and most significant section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the Beechmont Bridge Connector. A complex, half-mile stretch, the Beechmont Bridge Connector will connect the existing Little Miami Scenic Trail terminus near State Route 32 and Beechmont with the Otto Armleder Memorial Park to Lunken Trail and the future Elstun Road Connector.

Then in June, we held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the final phase of this connector trail. The excitement was palpable about this connector, which will allow people to travel along more than 80 miles of paved shared-use trail through five counties from Springfield, Ohio, south to the Ohio River Trail.

“The Beechmont Bridge Connector represents a major step forward for our regional trail system,” said Todd Palmeter, CEO of Great Parks. “For the first time, trail users will be able to continue from the Little Miami Scenic Trail to the Ohio River Trail safely and without disruption.”

Urban Farming Creates Connections

A woman runs toward a bin, tossing a bottle to be recycled in it. Another woman looks on, smiling and explaining  how the race works.
Guests took part in recycling relay races where they learned about sustainability.

On August 28, Great Parks hosted our first Urban Farming Festival at Nature Center at The Summit in Roselawn. Despite the blazing heat, hundreds of residents showed up to learn about urban farming and support local entertainment and vendors.

Guests enjoyed mindfulness yoga and meditation with Alexander Shelton Yoga at Urban Farming Festival on August 28.

Outreach Manager Sarah Kent created the festival, producing an event that combines sustainable living with community flavor. This free event connected people to nature through hands-on activities, art and music through yoga, seed-planting, meeting farm animals, recycling relay races, mini-hikes and more.

This festival was the first of its kind for Great Parks of Hamilton County. Events like this are one of the many initiatives we put forth to foster community connections within urban communities and engage all residents regardless of background and abilities.

Accessible Canoe and Kayak Launch Opens

Also in August, we officially opened an accessible canoe and kayak launch at Winton Woods. Located near the boathouse, the launch allows getting on and off watercraft easier and safer for users of all abilities.

This launch is unique in that it’s equipped with a transfer system that allows unassisted individuals with a physical restriction to get into a canoe or kayak. Complete with a bench that slides over a chute with rails, this new launch allows the individual to sit down in the watercraft and slide easily into and out of the lake. This project also includes access from nearby parking to the launch that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Standards.

Celebrating Heritage Juntos

Two young women perform Latin dances. They are wearing bright red, flowy dresses feature a floral pattern.
Dancers from Cincinnati Baila! Dance Academy perform traditional Hispanic dances.

Another new event, Great Parks hosted our inaugural Hispanic Heritage Festival at Sharon Woods on September 19. Enjoying the final days of summer, roughly 1,000 people came out to learn about and engage in Hispanic culture.

Events Manager Laura Longo created the event to be bilingual, with volunteers who spoke both English and Spanish. With more Spanish-speaking guests visiting Great Parks over the past few years, Longo wanted to show everyone is welcome. “This is a great way to engage our community,” she said.

A girl and a Great Parks employee play a game of Lotería.
Guests played games like Lotería, which is a traditional Mexican game similar to bingo but matches images.

At this event, guests enjoyed salsa dancing lessons, cultural dance demonstrations, Zumba classes, craft-making, local food trucks, games and live music, all of which were from local groups and organizations.

We’re happy we were able to share in so many new and memorable experiences with you in 2021!

Here’s to a cheerful 2022 – we can’t wait to see you in the great outdoors!