Spring (Training) Fever

IMG_3066I was down in Cincinnati today.  It was a gorgeous day, with bright sunshine streaming through the conference room window, temperatures touching the 60s, the mighty Ohio shimmering in the distance, and far below the covered field of Great American Ballpark, where the Redlegs play.

With such a scene, what red-blooded American wouldn’t think about baseball, and spring training?  Oh, by the way — pitchers and catchers report for the Tribe in three days.

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Graceful Queens Of The Ohio

It was a beautiful day when I visited Cincinnati recently and saw two of the remaining paddle-wheelers on the mighty Ohio River.  The River Queen and the Belle of Cincinnati were moored on the Kentucky side of the river, awaiting passengers for a cruise on a bright, sunny day.

Cincinnati’s Roebling Suspension Bridge

Among other things, Cincinnati can boast of a very cool suspension bridge:  the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge that crosses the Ohio River between downtown Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky.

Roebling designed the bridge, which opened in 1867.  His name may be familiar, because he also designed the Brooklyn Bridge.  At the time Roebling finished his span across the Ohio River, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

The Roebling Suspension Bridge is a beautiful, elegant part of downtown Cincinnati, with its graceful lines and gold-topped stone arches that have been darkened by time.  Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get to the bridge.  You have to cross a highway, pass the Great American Ballpark and the Underground Railroad Museum, navigate some construction sites and vacant parking lots, and keep an eye out for sketchy-looking characters.  Although we made it to the bridge, we couldn’t figure out how to get down to the banks of the Ohio River itself.

For an historic river town, Cincinnati doesn’t really do much to make the Ohio River an accessible part of its downtown area.

On The Scioto Mile

2011 has been the year of downtown parks in Columbus.  Earlier this year, the Columbus Commons opened on the site of the old Columbus City Center.  Now the Scioto Mile has joined the Columbus parks parade.

The Scioto Mile is a thin strip of brick and stone walkways, flower beds and flower pots, fountains, and seating areas that runs along the Scioto River as it arcs through downtown Columbus.  The area sits atop the Scioto River flood wall, well above the water itself, and is an effort to try to reintegrate the river into the downtown area by making the riverfront a more attractive destination.

In Columbus and other cities, city planners long ago made it difficult to get to the body of water that was a big part of the reason the for the city’s location in the first place, by putting heavily trafficked roads or walls or sports arenas or fences in the way.  The Scioto Mile is an effort to reverse that approach.  Planners apparently realized what the rest of us have known all along — people like water and are drawn to it.  (Read the first few pages of Moby Dick if you don’t believe me.)  The muddy Scioto is not as striking a body of water as, say, one of the Great Lakes or the Ohio River, but it is nevertheless pleasant to sit nearby and watch as the water meanders past.

I appreciate the effort and thought that went into the development of the Scioto Mile.  I particularly like the inclusion of table areas for the brown bag lunch crowd and the swinging benches, which would be a pleasant way to spend a few minutes on lunch hour.  The tables have checkerboard imprints and are just waiting for some serious chess players to show up.  The fountains and planters also are attractive additions.  From the signs appearing at various points along the Scioto Mile, it looks like the project has had significant corporate and foundational support.

Although the park is nice, the jury is still out on how much it will be used.  The closest buildings to the Scioto Mile are government buildings and office buildings, without any restaurants, bars, or food areas in sight.  If the hope is to make the Scioto Mile a bustling place, some kind of food and drink options will have to be part of the mix.

Flood Stage

It has been raining, raining, and raining across Ohio.  In Columbus, it has been raining heavily, and virtually non-stop, for more than a day.

Counties across Ohio are under flood watches and flood warnings.  With the constant rain, the snow melt, and the saturated ground, excess water is pouring into creeks and rivers.  With amazing suddenness, the lazy, picturesque stream that you drive past on your way to work becomes a raging torrent that spills out from its bed.  The widening rivers then spread across the nearby landscape, covering the area with sluggish, slow-moving brown water, and when the waters recede they leave everything thickly coated with smelly brown muck.  The flooding risks are particularly acute for those to the north who live near Lake Erie, where all moving water flows to the Great Lakes basin, and those to the south who live along the many rivers that drain into the Ohio River.  As more and more water flows in, from rain and smaller tributaries, rivers can rise with startling speed, trapping those who are reckless or unwary.

If you want to live by a river in Ohio, you have to be prepared.  Flooding is just part of life during the early spring, although some years are worse than others.