A new development proposal for the Urban Wilderness Center in Burnet Woods will be presented to the Clifton Town Meeting on December 7th. While being touted as an update on the existing designs, this proposal differs significantly from prior presentations to the community and includes substantial separate facilities for The Camping and Education Foundation/Urban Wilderness Center. Additionally, this proposal is on agenda for the regular meeting of the Cincinnati Park Board for December 17th.

Documentation provided to CTM can be viewed here.

Instruction from the CTM email to join the meeting: “To join the videoconference click on the following link – https://meet.google.com/idw-posr-aqw?hs=122&authuser=3. To join via phone, dial (413) 369-1286 and use the following PIN – 567 950 589#.” (Please note that CTM is holding their Trustee elections prior to the meeting. Please respect their need for civilized process to work for the community in that regard.) Meeting is on 12/7 at 7PM. The agenda reflects matters of business prior to the topic of Burnet Woods, which is an anticipated 8PM start.

Documentation includes a simplified summary and timeline of events, and basic renderings of the updated design. In this link, we have also included a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between CEF and the Park Board last year which sets the guidelines for process and engagement for the development discussions. Please take a moment to email cincy.parks@cincinnati-oh.gov and contactctm@cliftoncommunity.org and request that they reject this new proposal as inconsistent with needs of the park and an intrusion into a public natural habitat by a private foundation, or in the very least, to hold this new proposal to the same standard of community engagement and feedback that was required of prior development proposals over the last 2 years – specifically, the Clifton Cultural Arts Center proposal which was rejected by the Cincinnati Park Board in December 2018.

Additional backstory: In late September 2020, it was made known to Preserve Burnet Woods that the Camping and Education Foundation had been working with students from the University of Cincinnati to refine the Urban Wilderness Center concept in Burnet Woods as well as concept a new master plan for Burnet Woods. Upon inquiry and insistence, members of the PBW Board were invited to attend a presentation by the university students to showcase 3 semesters of work following this assignment. Two Park Board Commissioners were present, as was CEF leadership, Parks staff, and 1-2 other community members. Presentation by the students was impressive and the students should be proud of their work. It contained aspects of design from prior community engagement including nature playscape designs, trail updates and expansions, programming recommendations, and signage recommendations. The students should be applauded for their effort in this regard. Unfortunately, the work also included a new building design for CEF / the Urban Wilderness Center. The PBW Team expressed at that time that while the student concepts for trails, signage, and playscapes consistent with the master plan and prior community engagement certainly warranted further discussion, we were at an impasse with the building renovation. Consistent with our prior position on the CCAC proposal, we cannot support the separate facility for CEF in its step back from focusing on Trailside Nature Center and its advancement of new construction by a private entity in the park. At that October meeting, we were advised by Cincinnati Parks to view the presentation as a student project (PBW regularly engages with university student cohorts for park projects.) and that next steps were unlikely if the presentation was not supported by the community. It is to our surprise that this proposal has advanced to community engagement via Clifton Town Meeting, and further to the Park Board. The rapid pace is alarming and the complete objectives are unclear at this time. The materials provided to CTM are a paired down set of documents from the October presentation and do not include the community-focused features of the student project.

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