MetroParks projects move forward in Fairfield Twp., Middletown

MetroParks of Butler County is wrapping up one project and is preparing to move forward with two other major projects in the coming months.

Kelly Barkley, senior manager of community relations, said construction work in the Line Hill Mound Activity Area of the Rentschler Forest MetroPark off Ohio 4 in Fairfield Twp. is nearing completion of its $569,000 first phase.

Barkley said the four new practice fields, a retention pond and parking area are in place as is a connector road to Riegart Road. The project was made possible from planned funding within MetroParks’ general fund that was saved over a period of years, according to Barkley.

“We will start seeding the new practice fields and put a protective covering so that the seeds can germinate,” she said. “There is also some finishing work that needs to be done. The project is very much on target and we’re very pleased with that.”

However, the new fields will not be open until they are established sometime in 2018, she said.

In addition, Barkley said MetroParks is also in the process of doing some trail extensions, which she said was a board priority. She said the agency is seeking grant funding to connect a trail from Riegart Road to Timberhill.

However, there are some trails that have been closed due to falling limbs from dying ash trees in the wooded areas such as the Pumpkin and Cascade trails. Barkley said MetroParks hopes to reopen those trails later this year.

MetroParks officials say future goals are to add a disc golf course, dog park and amphitheater to the park off Ohio 4 in this growing township.

A master plan for Rentschler were approved in 2014 after public input sessions and construction is now underway for what is being called the Line Hill Mound Activity Area of the park.

As funding permits, Barkley said future amenities on the concept plan include a playground, splash play features and a pond expansion that could accommodate fishing, kayaks and paddleboats.

Additional walking trails, greenspaces to enjoy nature, picnic shelters, an amphitheater and a Welcome Center that includes space for public use are also a part of the concept plan for the area, she said.

Earlier this summer, MetroParks accepted the transfer of Middletown’s Bicentennial Commons and the AK Pavilion which will be tied-in to the planned $1.2 million River Center on the edge of downtown.

“River Center is on track to be opened by fall 2017,” she said.

Barkley said the agency is narrowing the list of vendors who submitted their qualifications to perform the design-build project. Once that is completed, the three most qualified vendors will be asked to submit their proposals for the project, she said.

She said that MetroParks “wants to make it a positive economic driver for downtown Middletown.”

Barkley said there are plans to do some programming at Bicentennial Commons and put in some plantings later this fall.

MetroParks envisions the River Center will serve as a hub for those who walk, run and bike along the Great Miami River Recreation Trail and will enable trail users to access downtown shops, restaurants and businesses.

The facility will include public restrooms in addition to meeting and educational spaces. It will also serve as home base for the MetroParks volunteer Trail Ambassador Program beginning in the fall and as a substation for MetroParks public safety staff.

This new addition to the local landscape is adjacent to the nine-mile section of the Great Miami River Recreation Trail, a bicycle and pedestrian path that runs parallel to the river and is managed by MetroParks.

Final costs and a construction start date will be determined once building plans are finalized.

Also on track for completion in 2017 is the new fieldhouse at Voice of America Park to support the youth sports tournament fields, Barkley said.

She said the request for qualifications deadline was last week for the design/build project. MetroParks is using a $1 million grant from UC Health and a $500,000 grant from the state capital improvements program.

The new fieldhouse will have public restrooms, concession area, a shade awning, a trainer’s room, and an upper level that can be reservable or used as a press box.

“We’re really excited to get that up and going,” she said. “We want this to be functional for our park customer users and have value to those renting the facilities.”

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