Archive for Mariemont’s South 80

The South 80 in Mariemont: history, transformation and future

The South 80 in Mariemont: history, transformation and future

The South 75+ acreage was bequeathed to Mariemont in 1976. Historically the acreage was used to grow corn and beans although, at one time in the early 20th Century, it was a nine hole golf course with a club house, the remnants of which still exist. During recent years H. Hafner & Sons have cultivated the acreage without land rent in exchange for disposing of the yard waste and leaves in the Fall. Few Villagers even knew that this acreage was a part of Mariemont until small garden plots were offered to Mariemont residents in recent years and the Eastern Corridor project resurfaced.

During most of my 52 years as a Mariemont resident, the ‘South 80’ was considered just farm acreage in the flood plain adjacent to the train tracks at Clare Junction. In the days when Clare Junction was an active switching yard, the din from the steam engines and coupling of railroad cars was fairly continuous. Plus the smell of smoke or diesel fuel often settled like an early morning fog over the community. There was also an artesian well with a water tap at Clare Junction where anyone could fill containers with the pure Silver Springs water.

When my children were small, the ‘bottoms’ as we called the South 80 was a great place to shoot off bottle rockets, fly model airplanes and skip stones in Whiskey Creek. At that time, unbeknownst to most parents, the kids used to climb through the large pipes running to Whiskey Creek as well as climb up to the top floor of the abandoned steam-power plant along the railroad tracks.

Now let’s fast forward.  Almost overnight, this fertile farm land has become a remarkably prized piece of real-estate. It has morphed into the site of an ancient Indian Village and has allegedly become a lynch pin for Mariemont’s designation as a National Historic Landmark. Most now refer to the South 80 as a Park. Indeed, it has a nice hiking trail for a pleasant walk in the out-of-doors and numerous small garden plots for residents to grow vegetable and flowers. Additionally, a well with a hand pump has been dug for clean but non-potable water for the gardens.

Three major public work projects have catapulted the South 80 into prominence in the media and conscience of Mariemont. These include the Eastern Corridor Project for Route 32, the Oasis Trail Transit for light passenger rail and the Wasson Line Bicycle Trail. The foremost project creating the most pushback from the residents of Mariemont, Newtown, and Madisonville is the Eastern Corridor Project that entails building a “boulevard” extension of Red Bank Road to act as a connector to Route 32 in Newtown. The argument for building this extender is to relieve traffic congestion on Route 50 and the Beechmont Levee and provide a more direct route to Eastgate, Clermont County and beyond. ODOT contends that this boulevard would stimulate economic growth in the region even as the proposed route would bypass the business district in Newtown.

One of the Routes under consideration by ODOT for building a part of the Eastern Corridor carries the Route 32 connector through the South 80. Supposedly, this route is being considered because a more direct extension of Red Bank Road to Route 32 across the Horseshoe Bend in the Little Miami River would be more costly and challenging from an engineering standpoint.

At this juncture, this segment of the Eastern Corridor Project is unfunded even as it has been on the drawing board for over three decades. Furthermore, where is the $100 billion coming from with so many other competing infrastructure needs such as the Bent Spence Bridge? At the end of the day, I think it will be the no build option that wins out and, if the Ohio State Route 32 project ever moves forward, it will not be in our lifetimes.

The following objections were expressed in the Mayor’s Bulletin in early 2013 concerning the rerouting of Route 32 through the South 80.

  1. Destabilization of the Miami Bluff hillside and further loss of the Indian serpent mound earthwork at the top of the Bluff from landslides caused by major excavation at the base of a volatile hillside
  2. Possible loss of National Historic Landmark Designation
  3. Destruction of Native American Archeological Site (Prehistoric village just discovered by University of Cincinnati)
  4. Negative environmental impact on our park and nature trails
  5. Significant reduction in Village of Mariemont parklands
  6. Increases in the amount of air pollution in the Village
  7. Terrible noise pollution
  8. Water pollution to the Little Miami River, which is listed as a National Scenic River and must be protected
  9. Loss of wildlife habitat (In what other Hamilton County community can a short walk from your home lead you to a natural wildlife area and scenic river? Do we want to lose this unique characteristic of our Village?)
  10. Destruction of the track used by our high school Cross-Country Track team
  11. Impact on Concourse resulting in loss of one of the most beautiful valley views in Hamilton County
  12. Major impact on the nearby Prevey Bird Sanctuary
  13. ODOT’s flawed analysis of alternative routes

In the 2013 Mayor’s October Bulletin, he showed how the Eastern Corridor opposition was gaining momentum. The Mayor was appealing to the court of public opinion and listed the groups showing support to preempt any ODOT plans. This opposition list included the Village of Newtown, the Madisonville Community Council, the Village of Terrace Park, Little Miami Incorporated, Sierra Club, the National Trust in Washington, D.C., John Ruthven, Dr. Ken Tankersley of the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Preservation Association, the Mariemont Preservation Foundation, Hamilton County Commissioners Chris Monzel, Greg Hartman and Todd Portune, Laure Quinilvan, Dr. Stanley Hedeen, the National Trust of Historic Places, the Hillside Trust, the Ohio River Way, Heritage Ohio, the Ohio Ornithological Society, the Cincinnati Bird Club, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, State Representative Peter Stautberg, Brad Wenstrup, and the Piqua Shawnee Native American Tribe. To obtain the endorsements from this mind-boggling array of individuals and agencies must have consumed a huge amount of the Mayor’s time. In general, it seems like overkill and an invitation to make ODOT a hostile advisory to the interests of the Village.

In another Bulletin, the Mayor disclosed that he had enlisted the services of an attorney, Matt Fellerhoff and Bob Newman, to represent the Village in this matter and initiated a program to raise money for legal defense and appeals.

To further muddy the waters, ODOT sponsored community poster sessions for the Oasis Trail Transit Project and the Eastern Corridor Project. Even though the whole engineering crews was present at these meetings, the presenters shed little light on the specifics concerning the rerouting of State Route 32 and Light Passenger Rail.

At a recent scheduled ODOT meeting in Fairfax to explain the programs, I attempted to get some answers from Andy Fleugemann, the 8th District Deputy Director of ODOT. Despite intense probing, he provided no specifics and seemed indifferent to the rising tide of negative public opinion. At that meeting there were no less than 6 engineer representatives from ODOT and I came away with the impression that these Projects were insuring long term employment for this cadre of engineers.

There are many questions to answer if the State Route 32 extender were to go through the South 80.

  1. How wide an easement or swath would the road occupy and how many lanes would it have. What assurances do the residents of Mariemont have that this would not be an expressway or Interstate Highway?
  2. Would the highway or boulevard be separate or run parallel to the railroad tracks?
  3. Assuming the Oasis Rail Line and Watson Road bike path became a reality; how would they integrate with the Ohio 32 extender?
  4. How many of the South 80 acres would be consumed and what would be the configuration of those left for development?
  5. How would you insure improved access to the residual acreage for recreational activities?
  6. How much and to what height would the connector need to be elevated to address the flood plain issue and to what degree would this obstruct the view from the Mariemont Concourse?
  7. Would the high tension wire towers need to be moved, relocated or would these utilities be buried?
  8. The traffic would cause what decibel level of background noise and what steps would be taken for noise abatement?
  9. Would the project cause any instability to the Miami Bluff or cause rerouting of the Little Miami River?
  10. How would you safeguard or preserve any antiquities that might be uncovered during construction?
  11. How much money as ‘sweeteners’ to the deal would ODOT give to the Village of Mariemont to build access to the South 80 and create recreational facilities such as ball fields, picnic areas, parking lots, camp grounds, gardening sheds, electric outlets, city water and a fishing dock?
  12. How will ODOT deal with the Mariemont Historic Village issue and manage all the concerns expressed by the residents of Mariemont as well as other effected communities?

None of these questions have been answered to the satisfaction of the vast majority of Mariemont Residents.

When I hike the trail, I see additional opportunities for the Village to consider in the utilization of the South 80 such as:

  1. A couple of baseball diamonds or soccer fields with a parking lot and portable toilets. This would alleviate some of the congestion and improve safety around Dogwood Park in the heat of baseball and soccer season and provide practice fields for the Mariemont School System.
  2. An elevated open air shelter house that can be easily cleaned if flooding occurs and provide shelter for campers, hikers and picnickers.
  3. Make the garden plots more appealing by offering rentable sheds to house farming equipment and provide electric
  4. Improved access and parking

This is just brainstorming to produce food-for-thought for the council committee that oversees the South 80. The minutes of their meetings have been posted on this blog in the past. As the first step the 1.4 mile scenic trail around the South 80 acres below Miami Bluff is a great addition. The community is indebted to the volunteers for the hard work that brought this about.

Mariemont’s South 80

South 80 Trails, Gardens, and Park Advisory Board

April 8, 2014 Meeting Notes

Meeting time and place: 7:00 – 8:00 pm, Village Council Chambers

Attendees:  Mark Erhardt, Joe Stelzer, Tim Duever, Jason Brownknight, Andrew Seeger,Rob Winget

Absent: Doug Welsh, Mark Glassmeyer, Chris White, Debbie Henderson, Karen Sullivan

Guests: None

Meeting Notes:

The meeting opened with an update from Joe Stelzer on the Wasson Way trail project.  The new Mayor of the City of Cincinnati is making it a priority and it is very probable that the Village will be approached at some point to discuss the possibility of using the South 80 as a link for the Wasson Way trail between Xavier and Newtown.  Mariemont has been engaged in the project for several years and Councilmen Dennis Wolter provided a key business contact for discussions with the railroad for acquiring the right of way.  Considerations include right of way, path of the trail, and impact on the tunnel and access points to the South 80.  There are no proposals on the table at this time but may come very soon.

Doug Welsh was unable to attend, but provided a gardens update via email.  114 of a 122 plots have been rented.  Gardeners have been coordinating plans for composting, common fencing, and tilling.  The drilling of the well is tentatively scheduled for Monday, April 28.  Joe Stelzer remarked about the positive feedback he receives from members of the community on the gardens this year, especially in regards to improved communications and organization.

Mayor Policastro passed along a note from the new Assistant Fiscal Officer Chris Elridge regarding a grant program for trail development.  The Board discussed next steps in pursuit of this grant and possible application by Mariemont.

Mark Erhardt said that Mayor Policastro had reviewed the vehicle access and parking proposal with Chief Hines and that we would receive their feedback on the proposal soon.

Saturday, April 26 is the tentative date for the Spring Clean Up Day.  The Board has a few additional details to work out and will publish information on the Spring Clean Up Day on our South 80 Trails Facebook page soon.

Andrew Seeger agreed to be the liaison between the Board and the Boy Scouts for future Eagle Scout projects on the South 80.  Joe Stelzer commented that the recent campground Eagle Scout project with Scott Matthews was a great success.

Karen Sullivan is coordinating a bird watching day on April 27; details are on our Facebook page:

“Enjoy a spring walk in the South 80 Park with experienced birder Ann Oliver, former President of the Cincinnati Bird Club. The fields, emergent wetlands, and forested areas provide habitat for a variety of species, including migrating neotropicals. Join the search for warblers passing through on their annual spring route North, as well as the diverse mix of birds that make their home in the South 80 Park.”

The meeting adjourned at 8:00 pm.


Minutes, Ideas and Recommendations from the South 80 Trails, Gardens, and Park Advisory Board

South 80 Trails, Gardens, and Park Advisory Board

South 80 editiedMarch 11, 2014 Meeting Notes

Meeting time and place: 7:00 – 8:00 pm, Village Council Chambers

Attendees:  Mark Erhardt, Joe Stelzer, Doug Welsh, Tim Duever, Jason Brownknight , Andrew Seeger, Mark Glassmeyer, Chris White, Rob Wingert

Meeting Notes:

The meeting opened with a discussion on parking in the gardens area.  The specific rules for parking are not well known or posted.  Mariemont resident Michael Kintner addressed the Board and expressed his concern for the safety of users of the South 80 and Gardens due to cars traveling up and down the narrow drive and through the tunnel under the railroad tracks.

The Board discussed his concerns and agreed to recommend to the Mayor and Chief of Police a number of ideas to improve traffic flow and clarify parking rules for the South 80 and Gardens (attached).

Doug Welsh provided an update on his work on organizing the Public Gardens; great progress continues to be made.   Joe Stelzer, Mark Erhardt and Mark Glassmeyer provided a report on the site visit by a representative of Jersey West Drilling.  There appears to be no issues with proceeding with having a well drilled in the gardens area for watering purposes only.

The meeting adjourned at 8:00 pm.

Attachment to March 11, 2014 Meeting Notes:

Recommendation to Mayor Policastro and Chief Hines on vehicle access and parking in the South 80 and Mariemont Community Gardens

Recommendation # 1: Vehicle Access and Parking Restrictions

  • Vehicle access and parking should be limited to the following:
  1. Individuals who have paid for Mariemont Community Gardens plots for that calendar year.  Gardeners will be provided with a paper pass to post on their dashboard.  Gardeners should park near their plot(s) if possible.
  2. Vehicles with handicap tags or signs; or with a pass issued by the Village
  3. Vehicles registered with overnight campers
  • All others should park in the pool parking lot or on the street near the pool

Recommendation # 2: Rules Postings and Signage

  • Full vehicle access and parking rules should be posted on the South 80 bulletin board and once a year in the Mayor’s Bulletin
  • A sign should be posted at the top entrance to the South 80 road stating “Authorized or Permitted Vehicles Only – general parking available in the pool parking lot”
  • Stop signs should be posted at both entrances to the tunnel along with signs that says “Turn on lights and honk horn before entering”

Recommendation # 3: Safety Mirrors

  • Mariemont Police should determine if one or more “bubble” mirrors be installed at the turn before entering the tunnel or at either end of the tunnel to improve visibility for walkers, cyclists and drivers

Recommendation # 4: Patrol and Enforcement of Parking

  • As Mariemont Police are patrolling the area, they should periodically check vehicles parked in the gardens area to ensure that they meet the authorized vehicle criteria detailed in Recommendation # 1
  • Ticketing of unauthorized vehicles should be left to the standard policies of the Mariemont Police Department

Recommendation # 5: Formal Policies

  • Additional vehicle access and parking recommendations may be suggested by the Advisory Board based on community feedback, but the Mayor, Mariemont Police and Village Council should establish any formal rules or policies based on overall community safety needs


South 80 Trails, Gardens, and Park Advisory Board

February 11, 2014 Meeting Notes

Meeting time and place: 7:00 – 8:15 pm, Village Council Chambers

Attendees: Mark Erhardt, Joe Stelzer, Doug Welsh, Tim Duever, Jason Brownknight , Andrew Seege, Mark Glassmeyer, Chris White

Meeting Notes:

The meeting opened with an in depth discussion of the merits of drilling a water well in the gardens area to provide non-potable water for the gardens.  The Board unanimously agreed that a well was a needed upgrade to the current situation.

The Board reviewed cost and logistic factors and determined that a 75-foot well with a manual pump would be appropriate.  The Board then voted unanimously to recommend to the Mayor to proceed with the well project at a budget not to exceed $4,000 with likely actual costs closer to $3,500.  Mark Erhardt will communicate the recommendation to Mayor Policastro; Doug Welsh will contact Maintenance Superintendent Scherpenberg to discuss logistics; Joe Stelzer is going to discuss grant funding for the project with the Mariemont Preservation Foundation, the Mariemont Civic Association and private donors.

Doug Welsh provided an update on his work on organizing the Public Gardens; great progress has been made.  The Board reviewed proposed 2014 Mariemont Community Gardens Policies and Responsibilities and suggested a few minor changes.  Doug will make revisions and re-circulate the document for final review.

The Board discussed general maintenance issues: re-routing a few trail sections, removal of invasive species such as honeysuckle and removal of previously cut trees and plants.  Board members divided responsibilities: Mark Glassmeyer to organize of removal of felled trees; Mark Erhardt and Chris White to organize a general clean-up day with community volunteers; Tim Duever to look into providing means for trash removal; Andrew Seeger to continue to work with the school cross-country coaches on holding meets in the South 80, Jason Brownknight is continuing to look into re-forestation and invasive species removal options, and Joe Stelzer to work with the Village Office on the campsite registration form and process.

The meeting adjourned at 8:15 pm.

Development Ideas for the South 80:

Provided by Karen Sullivan

  • Plan seasonal events (new Mariemont traditions?) and promote them within the community and region
  • Establish a plan to restore and enhance riparian corridors and other environmentally sensitive areas – would include invasive species removal, tree planting, native wild flowers, trail enhancements to help with soil erosion, etc.
  • Develop educational features, such as programs with the schools, PTA, scouts, etc., and could also include signs along the trails describing the importance of wetlands, Native American heritage, and other historic and natural features of the South 80 and Little Miami River Valley
  • Enhance the community gardens
  • Create a Master Plan that incorporates the vision for the South 80 and establishes priorities and timeframes.  This could be shared/vetted with the community (and could help with grants)

Provided by Rob Wingert

I think the trails we have are great and can’t really see needing more on the existing areas. It might be good to improve a couple of areas where there could be safety concerns (although these are the most fun for mountain biking).

Since Dave Motz has allowed us to add trails on to his property this would be an area to explore. It would require crossing the slough which might be best served with a permanent structure – bridge. This may be more complicated then what we want to take on. We could have a trail down and across the bottom but it would not be accessible a good part of the time because of the water backing up in the slough.

Obviously the river presents a lot of opportunities for recreation. An area for canoes and kayaks to come in and out of the river would be fairly easy. Posted areas for fishing would also be a thought. Not sure of the liability issues or anything.

New aerial map in color – about 18″ by 24″ – from a company called mytopo ( We could get some much better maps to put up at the entry point by the pool.

Provided by Chris White

From the last meeting, I’m still not sure what the long term vision of the South 80 is. It seems we will be addressing that in tonight’s meeting. If we can get some consensus on what we hope to ultimately see it would be great.

Very generally, what do we hope to become?

  • more nature oriented, light/minimal impact  (ex. California woods)
  • larger scale improvements to include a nature center, gravel trails, better signage, etc. (Cincinnati Nature Center)
  • more of a recreational approach. paved trails, possible usage of fields for soccer, more trails, etc. (Otto Armleder)
  • a hybrid of all three?

For the long term plans/vision, I lean more toward a California Woods. Much as we have been doing already. An approach toward light improvement for betterment of the park with minimal impact and minimal expenditure.


  1. Plans for incorporating the existing trail system in the Dogwood Park into the South 80 trails if feasible, joining the two trail systems together could provide more residents and the schools with walking access to the entire trail system from Dogwood park.
  2. Plans to incorporate the “boat house” in Dogwood Park into congruent use with the South 80.  – I believe the boat house is already listed as a “nature center” if we can use our resources/group to develop this into a nicer, more user friendly nature center, it could become a great starting point for the entire area.
    1. Having a nature center within close proximity to the schools could take away the need for busing or travel to the existing trail head by the pool.
    2. If used with the south 80 trails, could be a jump off point for group hiking, weekend or scheduled nature center hours, nature classes,
    3. Plans for future sources of funding. Handling/pursuing donations, etc. – acknowledgement of donations through signage, benches, trees, etc.
    4. Plans for a canoe/kayak take-out/launch
    5. Further development and/or incorporation of “island” and other adjacent land for continued trail expansion.


Provided by Mark Glassmeyer

Buy Fairfax VFW and turn into park entrance / nature center.

  • Canoe racks by river.
  • Nature information sign (info for kids on things they may see).  Historical site info also on signs.
  • Plant a tree in kindergarten program.  Each incoming class at Mariemont Elementary plants a tree when they start…take photo…high school grad take picture by tree.  “Look how we have grown.”
  • Take back small field “out of play for Haffner” and use area for trees. = the “reforestation of that field.”
  • Solar farm for village…my wild hair idea…energy credit back to village for all…would make big news.

Provided by Andrew Seeger

  • JH cross country race’s
  • HS cross country race’s
  • Access to the island –  during the times of the year when water was low
  • I would like to add some trees in certain area’s
  • Look into getting some more marketing done / pins / patches / flags – I have attached a couple of picture’s related to places I have been with the outdoors in mind.  The pins are some National Parks and the patches mostly of parks and outside places. Maybe we could get the schools involved and have students as well as community send in ideas and drawing.
  • Very long term and Joe S. has been working on for a very long time is the tie into Bass Island / Wasson Way / Armleder Park tie in’s..

Provided by Jason Brownknight

Five Ideas for Potential Usage of South 80

1. Maintain as open green space with a wooded riparian zone in perpetuity.

2. Maintain safe hiking trails for multiple users such as nature lovers, solace seekers, runners, mountain bikers, dog walkers, education groups, and casual walkers.

3. Maintain community garden plots.

4. Opportunity to restore and enhance the natural landscape through tree planting, invasive species management, native forest regeneration, agricultural best management practices (BMPs), habitat management for wildlife (e.g., vernal pools and native grasslands.

5. Celebrate the natural and cultural history by providing space for educational programming (e.g., nature hikes, garden programs, exhibits, and school groups).


Mark Erhardt provided a brief assessment of the recent flooding.  There was no significant damage to the South 80, but there is a section of the Red (woods) trail which may require repair or re-routing due to being too close to the creek to the south.

Erhardt, Stelzer, and other Board members will complete an assessment of this section of trail when weather permits.

Doug Welsh provided an update on his work on organizing the Public Gardens.  Fees for plots will depend on whether we add a well for water that will make the plots more valuable.  We know that other community gardens charge fees substantially higher than Mariemont.  Preliminary research on installing a well in the gardens area are encouraging, so Mark Glassmeyer is going to conduct additional research and report back to the Board with a proposal at our February meeting.  Doug will submit two fee proposals for the Board to review: one which assumes that a well will be available to gardeners and one which assumes no change to current water access.

The Board and Mayor Policastro discussed whether additional asphalt scrapings would be needed for the field trails or new the gardens.  The Board recommends not adding any new asphalt scrapings at this time as the current scrapings are sufficient and additional asphalt could negatively impact the gardens.

The Board discussed options for tree planting and native tree reforestation.  There is interest in pursuing this and Jason Brownknight will provide an update on an upcoming regional reforestation meeting at our February meeting.

Due to limited time, we were unable to have a detailed discussion to review each Board member’s top five ideas for the South 80.  Since many submitted ideas in writing, they are attached to these notes and will be discussed at a future Board meeting.

Mariemont South 80 Acres

Thoughts on potential usage of Mariemont South 80 acres. Jason Brownknight, South 80 Advisory Committee Member

January 15, 2014

Notes on the Landscape

The South 80 is a community asset that increases the quality of life to residents and

visitors of Mariemont. The acreage, located along the National and State Scenic Little

Miami River, provides health benefits to park users and village residents by offering

green space for solace seekers, nature lovers, gardeners, dog walkers, and recreational

users. The landscape of the South 80 is of extreme importance. The Little Miami River

was the first National and State Scenic RIver in the United States. It is recognized as a

priority ecosystem by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The South 80 landscape is a mosaic of cropland, riparian forest, and community

gardens. The width of the riparian zone provides a buffer strip along the river, overflow

channels, and tributaries. However, the riparian forest community is highly degraded

from an ecological perspective. The canopy is dominated by mature native species

such as cottonwood, sycamore, and sugar maple. The sub canopy layer is dominated

box elder, young maple, and green ash. The shrub layer is dominated by Amur “bush”

honeysuckle. The herbaceous layer is dominated by non-native invasive species such

as winter creeper, lesser celandine, poison hemlock, and garlic mustard. Other native

tree species include silver maple, hackberry and pignut hickory. Little native tree, shrub,

and herbaceous regeneration is occurring due to the presence of non-native invasive

species. Despite the condition of the riparian zone, it still provides benefits as forested

green space along the river. Opportunities to implement forest restoration and

preservation do exist; including funding sources for planning and implementation. The

cropland is managed well with good access.

The trails provide access into the riparian zone and to the river and traverse the

agricultural fields. They are made of two trails surfaces – natural and crushed blacktop.

The natural surfaces are dominated by sandy-loam soils therefore are soft and dry out

well. Only a few spots are holding standing water. The side slopes along the riparian

trail are well designed to promote water runoff. A couple of low spots holding water can

be considered seasonal routes or can be re-routed. Stream bank erosion is occurring

along the overflow channel and threatens the stability of some sections of the riparian

trail. The crushed blacktop provides a multi-use surface that keeps users out of the


The South 80 also provides habitat to a variety of wildlife including, but not limited to:

mammals such as White-tail deer, coyote, red and grey fox, beaver, woodchuc