After over a decade of waiting, on May 18, Smale Riverfront Park will open with a bang, literally.
A firework display and local bands will commemorate the first phase of construction opening to the public. Phase 1 includes the Schmidlapp event lawn and stage, the Black Brigade Monument, the Bike, Mobility and Visitor's Center, The Smale Tree Grove and the first section of the bike trail. Other Phase 1 features, including the labyrinth, are expected to be open by the fall.
The 45-acre, $120 million park, which, once finished, will house a boat dock, will be in construction for the next couple years, but the grand opening is a important timestamp for the park because the plans have been approved since 1999.
The first piece of commissioned art in Smale park, the Black Brigade monument, pays tribute to the often overlooked group of 700 African-American men who volunteered to build a barricade to defend Cincinnati from a confederate attack during the Civil War in 1862. This marked some of the first black males to be employed by the North. Originally, the men were forced into constructing the barricades, which led to protests of the inhumane treatment of the men and an outcry by local media. The protests led to an intervention by Union officers, who freed the men from the forced labor and returned them to their homes. After returned home, the men were invited to volunteer their services and become a part of the team of 8,000 Cincinnatians that constructed the barricade to protect Cincinnati from attacks. Mayor Malloy's father, William Mallory Sr. was a leader in the development of the monument, saying that it is a important story that pertains to the history of Cincinnati.
"It is a very significant moment in Cincinnati's and the country's social history," says Joyce Kamen, public information officer for Smale Riverfront Park. "Cincinnati was on the river that separated slavery from freedom and many of the men who volunteered ended up serving in the North's military."
The sculpture will have three life-size bronze sculptures, interpretive panels of the monument and several relief panels. The monument will also show all 700 names of the men of the Black Brigade. Writer Tyrone Williams, graphic designer Erik Brown and sculptors John Hebenstreit and Carolyn Manto are all working on the development of the monument. The four artists were chosen out of a total of 40 artists who submitted applications to design the monument.
Future phases of Smale Park's development include an extension of the Ohio River Trail and the Women's Committee Garden, which are targeted to be completed by fall of 2013, and the Adventure Playground and Boat Dock, on schedule to be completed by summer of 2014.
By Evan Wallis