For over 90 years people in Cincinnati have made conservation a priority. Early visionaries in the industrialized era saw the need to take action. They were committed to preserve and restore these environmental escapes for future generations. This promise of conservation and sustainability is part of an ongoing story in parks across America today.
"To me, that's the No. 1 success story," said Jack Sutton, retired CEO of Great Parks of Hamilton County "About 10 years ago, we started to see a bald eagle in Hamilton County. Think back 30, 40, 50 years, it was unheard of to even think that you might see a bald eagle in southern Ohio. It was placed on the endangered species list, but because more and more habitat is being protected, we're seeing a resurgence of them. And so by creating good habitat here, it's truly acting locally and having a global impact."
Today, in over 17,000 acres, Great Parks of Hamilton County manages 21 park locations nestled in Cincinnati neighborhoods. Each serves as a shared backyard, home to wonderful biodiversity that's wide open for exploration.
"So that tree line you see in the distance is the property line, so beyond that you're starting to see subdivisions grow up," Sutton said. "We've created this wonderful green ecca that is just robust with biodiversity. People want to live close to it. If you sit out here on a quiet morning, all you'll hear is nature."
Alicia Culman, the executive director of Great Parks Forever, says parks are places for connections.
"What we find is that parks across the nation — but especially here in Hamilton County — are places where people make cultural connections," Culman said. "This is a play space; we are everybody's shared bigger backyard. So this is just a great place where people can stretch themselves and find that new frontier."
From strengthening the social fabric of the community to providing generations with outdoor fun, the benefits of parks are endless. For the Great Parks of Hamilton County alone, the annual economic impact has been estimated to be $91.9 million for the region. What's more, evidence shows that by connecting with nature, we can actually reclaim our health and well-being.
"It's no secret we have a problem in America with obesity, and getting kids outdoors is definitely going to be part of the solution," said Dr. Robert Siegel, medical director of the Center for Better Health and Nutrition at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. "The more you're outside, the more you're in a park, the more likely you are to play and be active."
Sutton says the outdoors can also help teach kids.
"Our outdoor education staff brings schoolchildren out here every season and basically learn about why wetlands are important, why should communities preserve these special places," Sutton said. "And it boils back to biodiversity. There's a much more calming effect when you're in a place like this."
Now and for future generations, we all must continue to champion the great story of American conservation and help preserve our great parks, forever.