Photo of the Little Miami River in downtown Loveland by David Miller
All Stakeholders Must Weigh In on Proposed Parking Garage
by Jeanne Nightingale, Citizens for Rights of the Ohio River Watershed (CROW), Sierra Club Miami Group, League of Women Voters Natural Resources Committee, Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati
The Little Miami State Park, located within the beautiful and historic Little Miami River valley, has been designated as a federal and state scenic river. It is protected because of its water quality, panoramic setting, and the many historic sites that can be found along its banks. The historic City of Loveland has become the gateway to the linear park trail that meanders 50 miles along the river valley, a popular destination for cyclists, paddlers, and hikers.
It is not surprising that Loveland’s business community welcomes the opportunity to accommodate out-of-town visitors to the scenic park by building a parking garage 100 feet from the Little Miami River trail head. Since downtown parking is scarce, such a facility would be convenient for customers frequenting the growing number of restaurants, shops, and businesses that make this charming old town an even greater tourist attraction.
And yet, what is an asset for some is a liability for others. The residents of Loveland have been given no chance to weigh in on the proposed two-story 270-space garage parking garage in the heart of their town and adjacent to the confluence of two natural waterways, the Little Miami River and the O’Bannon Creek. There is a growing concern among many Loveland residents that such a structure would destroy the very scenic park that attracts tourists in the first place.
By law, and in accordance with the provisions of chapter 1547 of the Ohio Revised Code the Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is charged with appointing an Advisory Council representing local interests to assess the ecological viability of building such a structure within reach of the Little Miami State Park. Nevertheless, the City Council of Loveland has proceeded – with zero community input – to apply for millions of dollars in government grants to build the garage behind Loveland’s City Hall.
The Little Miami River, in fact, traverses an ecologically vulnerable flood plain. Trail volunteers report their never-ending battle of keeping the trail free of conditions that cause flooding on parts of the trail-clogged culverts, erosion caused by bridge embankments, adjacent developments, and other obstacles that interrupt the flow of water away from the trail surface. Even a few inches of rainfall can cause permanent flood damage. With the ground’s inability to absorb or impede the flow of water, the consequences can be disastrous. And yet, no data-driven environmental impact studies have been done to date.
Mature trees – vital for maintaining the permeability of the forest soils and preventing erosion and flooding – will need to be cut down to make room for this imposing concrete structure. Have wet weather studies been done to assess the impacts of increased stormwater runoff from the bulldozed ground, demolished building and asphalt surfaces, or the discharge from the requisite catch basins and storm sewer pipes needed to manage stormwater overflows? What would be the measure of air pollution due to increased particulate matter as well as increased noise pollution? Have any of these environmental concerns have been addressed?
Communities that dwell within natural watersheds have the legal right to participate in constructive dialogue and debate on matters that put the health, biodiversity, and safety of the ecosystem in which they live at risk. Loveland City Council must hold a public hearing before it takes a vote on the proposed downtown parking garage. Addressing the parking situation in this unique town should rightfully include all stakeholders in the discussion.