New Duke Energy Garden brings view, greenery to Smale Riverfront Park

CINCINNATI - Visitors to downtown Cincinnati's Smale Riverfront Park can see the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky skyline from an oversized porch swing with the addition of a new garden that opened to the public Monday.

City leaders and Duke Energy representatives unveiled the new Duke Energy Garden in Smale Riverfront Park Monday morning. The garden is located east of the 1-year-old park's Main Street fountain and plaza.

The garden adds large trees, walking paths, granite seat walls and family-sized porch swings to the 45-acre park located on West Mehring Way. A $250,000 donation from Dianne and J. David Rosenberg funded the swings, which provide an unobstructed view of the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky riverfront.

"The Cincinnati riverfront is more than just an entryway into our community," President of Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky Jim Henning said in a news release. "It serves as the front porch to Ohio. That's why Duke Energy, through our foundation, is thrilled to bring this permanent asset to the citizens of Greater Cincinnati and to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who are expected to visit this park annually."

The roughly $120 million park is part of Cincinnati's effort to revitalize the riverfront and downtown. Civic leaders say they hope The Banks, the Horseshoe Casino and the park will help make the riverfront the destination spot developers want it to be. The park is expected to attract 1.1 million new visitors annually, according to a news release.

"This is a new energy a new spirit and I know you can feel it because of what no matter where you are downtown Cincinnati that energy can be felt," Cincinnati Park Board President Otto M. Budig Jr. said.

The Duke Energy garden is one of many enhancements to the park. Later in May, the Women's Committee Garden will open and ground covers and landscaping south of Mehring Way will be completed. Also, the Heekin/PNC Grow Up Great Playground will open in spring 2014.

Phase I of the park, which opened in 2012, includes the Walnut Street Fountain and Stairs, the Black Brigade Monument, the labyrinth, the east tree grove, the Main Street Fountain, the event lawn and bike center.

Work on Phase II park features began in 2013, and includes the construction of the Vine Street Fountain and Stairs and the Cincinnati Carousel. Most of the construction done this year will be conducted east of the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

Funding for the park includes a mixture of federal, state, city and private funds with approximately $80 million in public funds and $20 million in private.

"The establishment of the Duke Energy Garden in Smale Riverfront Park provides a stunning new public greenspace in Greater Cincinnati's grand new front yard," Director of Cincinnati Parks Willie Carden said in a news release. "We are extremely grateful for Duke Energy's tremendous generosity."

The garden's dedication and opening took place at the park at 10:30 a.m.

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