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Friday, September 12, 2014

Sell Mound Park? How About Fixing It?

Does the city intend to let property they own keep crumbling? Some of this property is used in their online literature to lure tourists and new residents to Portsmouth.

The Daily Times reports First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson says he has become discouraged after visiting Mound Park:

“I agree with all you recommended except for removing the fence behind the concrete basketball court near 17th and Hutchins,” Johnson said in an e-mail to City Manager Derek Allen. “While walking the park, I became so discouraged at the purposeful damage to swings, buildings and the two now inoperable (for some time now) water fountains as well as spray painting and incredible amounts of litter, trash and more litter.”

(Frank Lewis,  "Councilman Considers Selling Mound Park."
Portsmouth Daily Times. September 11, 2014)

The damage that is turning the city-owned park into a shambles has resulted over quite a long period of time during which repairs have been ignored by the city. Since the city has not keep up on appearances and needed repairs, a group of concerned citizens called "Scioto County Clean Up" held a work day at Mound Park on March 22, 2014. To solicit public help, these people have also started a Facebook group at this site:

Mound Park is presently included in the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce website as a public area containing "a horseshoe-shaped Indian burial grounds located in one of our beautiful city parks on 17th St. in Portsmouth."

According to the Portsmouth Public Library Local History Website, the mound at the park was constructed by the Mound Builders, generally referred to prehistoric inhabitants of North America who constructed various styles of earthen mounds for burial, residential and ceremonial purposes. It is believed that the mounds in Portsmouth were built between 500 B.C. to 1200 A.D.

Although there is evidence of many Indian mounds in the area, the most well-known is the horseshoe mound at Mound Park. Once known as the Citadel, this is the only one of the four horseshoe mounds still in existence. With the exception of Mound Park, the mounds within the city are no longer visible.

This description of "Things To Do On a Nice Day in Portsmouth, Ohio" in the Travel Tips section of USA Today speaks of enjoying these same historical musings:

"Portsmouth's Boneyfiddle District is the perfect place to wander on a mild afternoon. After browsing through shops, visit the Portsmouth Brewing Company to enjoy craft beer on tap and pub favorites in the outdoor beer garden. 

"Another of Portsmouth's local favorites is the Second Street Dari Creme, a long-established hot dog stand that serves much more than just hot dogs, although their "footers" should not be passed up. Order your milkshakes, chili and hot dogs to-go and drive to nearby Mound Park. Named after the preserved ancient burial mound that serves as the centerpiece, this park offers a picnic area, playground and outdoor recreation facilities."

(Renee Rall-Harden. "Things To Do On a Nice Day 
in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Johnson says he became so discouraged that he toyed with the idea that the city should simply sell the entire park, except for the mound itself, which he said would save the city and taxpayers money. He claims that money "seems to be going down the drain due to public indifference to their infrastructure of public spaces."

Please... !!

The historical and recreational significance of Mound Park deserves the benefit of city improvement and repair plus extra policing by local officials. Why must good citizens shoulder the blame for the squalid condition of the park, and why must groups be organized to take care of city property? For many decades Mound Park has served the public as a recreational asset, and just lately, the city seems to have abandoned the work necessary to operate the park.

A long tradition of local history plus a meaningful local attraction is in danger of becoming residential or business property. Consider the loss of Mound Park not only to local residents but also to visitors to the city.  At this time, Tracy Park is a wonderful area for family recreation and local events. How did Mound Park, once the most attractive park in the city, fall in disrepair while Tracy retained its beauty?

I have heard rumors about the park being a risky area now where transients roam and where criminals ply their illegal trades. Is it any wonder the public has found the park unsuitable for their leisure activities? I don't think we should blame the people of Portsmouth for their so-called "indifference." Let's point a blaming finger in the right direction and instead say, "Mound Park is a dirty, unkempt wreck due to the lack of needed attention by city officials."

You can't have it both ways: you can't promote a great resource and also ignore the necessary upkeep. Mound Park used to be a wonderful playground, an attractive, busy place fit for the needs of all ages. Evidently, now it just another soiled bargaining chip in "the keep" of a city government that doesn't understand how to manage its own properties.

Correct me if I'm wrong. People are paid with tax money to keep Mound Park usable, neat, attractive, and safe. Right? The charge to keep the park in a commendable condition has been a part of the promise of Portsmouth City officials for many, many years. Right? And, the significance of maintaining the mound and the other property there is an ongoing obligation intrusted to the city since white settlers set foot on the banks of the Ohio. Right?

Lastly, you and I know selling the park will not save the taxpayers' money. Any profit from selling the property will be gobbled up by another project the city has let sit in disrepair. I guess we could sell Mound Park to acquire demolition funds to tear down the dilapidated Martings Monstrosity. Now there is a piece of city-owned real estate that is costing the public money -- money finagled and secured without public approval. What would you save if you had to choose -- a time-honored park or an old crumbling ediface? I know my answer.

"Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children."

--Native American Proverb

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