WASHINGTON TWP., Ohio (WDTN) – After years of pushback against other plans, neighbors in a Washington Township neighborhood are welcoming a new park.
This week, the Centerville-Washington Park District announced a state grant will cover 75 percent of the costs to acquire and demolish the former Hithergreen Center site.
Roughly $558,000 was awarded to the park district through the Clean Ohio Fund Green Space Conservation Program, administered by the Ohio Public Works Commission and will go towards transforming the property into a public green space.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with this outcome as it was our original desire in 2015 when we were forced to move senior services,” Washington Township administrator Jesse Lightle said. “This is a win-win for the community and the Hithergreen neighborhood.”
Neighbors, many of whom campaigned for a park since a senior center occupying the facility closed its doors in 2015, are also calling the park a victory for the neighborhood.
“It was a really neat process to have so many people in the neighborhood stand up and work towards this and it’s very rewarding,” said Pam Miske, who lives near the site of the future park.
In 2015, Washington Township approached the Park District about acquiring the property, but it didn’t enough funds for the process at the time.
An assisted living facility hoped to purchase the property, but withdrew its plans when more than 150 neighbors attended a zoning meeting and voiced concerns about increased traffic and losing their public green space.
A developer then planned to turn the almost 15-acre parcel into a housing development. The plan for closer-set homes on smaller lots required re-zoning approval. When Washington Township trustees approved the project, neighbors responded by collecting enough signatures for a ballot initiative.
Ahead of the 2018 election, they successfully campaigned against Issue 15 to prevent the township from re-zoning the parcel.
Now, the Centerville-Washington Park District will own and maintain the property.
Park District director Arnie Biondo explained the new park will fulfill its mission to have a park within a 10-minute walk of every resident.
“The folks in Centerville and Washington are really lucky,” Biondo said. “We have a park within a half mile of every home. The only area that maybe didn’t fit in that was this neighborhood.”
The Township will soon start accepting bids for demolition of the former Hithergreen Center building. Then the Park District plans to ask neighbors for input in the park’s design.