Tucked behind the Old Timber Inn on Spring Grove Avenue in Northside, the newest stretch of the Mill Creek Greenway Trail at Salway Park feels like a secret urban garden. Bikers and hikers can glimpse blue heron and giant turtles along the trail that sits just feet from major city thoroughfares.
A grove of native species marks the edge of the wide, paved trail that leads southward toward downtown, running alongside the Mill Creek, the 28-mile stream that in 1997 was designated the most endangered urban river in North America by the non-profit American Rivers
On Sept. 24, volunteers can meet at the trailhead to suit up and cleanup the Mill Creek from 9 am till 1 pm. Removing trash from the stream when the weather allows is an important part of making sure that the Mill Creek continues its progress toward restoration.
In 2011, the Mill Creek doesn't even crack the top 10 on the most endangered list, thanks in part to more than 15 years of work by the Mill Creek Restoration Project
, founded in 1994.
The trail is part of the Mill Creek Watershed Greenway Master Plan, an ambitious effort to link greenspaces along the water from the start of the Mill Creek in Butler County to the Ohio River. The Mill Creek flows through 40 Cincinnati neighborhoods and 37 political jurisdictions.
"We are making improvements along the river as we go," says Robin Carothers, MCRP's executive director. From landscaping to planting Freedom Trees in honor of the creek's history as a well-worn path along the Underground Railroad, the greenway plan incorporates cool, sustainable elements, including:
• A parking lot designed to keep oil, grease and metals from draining into the Mill Creek. Porous concrete, asphalt and pavers allow stormwater runoff to drain into bio-retention beds. Runoff stays on-site and is filtered and absorbed by vegetation. Or, it percolates through soil and evaporates.
• Highly durable signage made from steel I-beams to reflect the industrial history of the valley.
As Carothers works to complete the current stretch of greenway, she worries about losing support from the Clean Ohio Trail Fund. If MCRP can't raise its share of $135,000 for the $540,000 project this year, state funds will be pulled at the same time that the Trail Fund cancelled its awards for next year because of a highly politicized state budget stalemate.
"This year we are desperate," Carothers says. "We are working like crazy to get matching funds."
• Make a donation
to keep the trail moving.
• Buy some pots
. Or buy sculptures or pavers or other products at the MCRP's store to support the organization.
• Take a hike. Check in with FourSquare
and you could be the next mayor of Salway Park.
By Elissa Yancey
Photo by Elissa Yancey