Along “The Stretch” – Gettin’ My City On in Riverside

This the tenth in my series of exploring all 52 neighborhoods of Cincinnati to discover what makes the city relevant to me. #GettinMy52On.

Despite feeling under the weather, I convinced my husband to turn our Sunday morning walk into one of my 52’s. In the end, some of our photos turned us into activists for the day.

“Where we headed this time?” he asked.

“I thought we would drive out past Sedamsville and hit Riverside.” The neighborhood of Riverside appeared on the map to be more of the same of Sedamsville. More stretches of railroad tracks along the river. More stretches of road along the tracks. More sidewalks abutting stone walls with whispers of what once lived up on the hillside. However, Riverside was on one of the 52 and so we set out.

We parked in the same spot where I had parked in Sedamsville. Our first fifty feet were still in the wrong neighborhood.

Once we hit our stride, I took in the shape of the land, how our forebearers would have found this site a plausible place to make home. The river stretched lazily before us, as if the current wanted to reach the Mississippi ahead as the welcome party. Across the water, hints of green rolled across the pastures of Kentucky. And the hillsides offered their own form of protection.

We took a side street denoted as a detour, and came upon several historic homes, which looked to be in better shape than those around them. Then, we walked along a road name Hillside, where the last scoops of dirt and stoops of stone were all that remained of many, many homes years ago.

The state was undertaking a $500,000 investment in storm drainage along Hillside Ave., perhaps with the intent some of this land could be redeveloped into useable space. Though through some quick research, I found very little to back up my supposition.

The original River Road was one of Cincinnati’s first roads constructed. The site of the Anderson Ferry, with a short cruise across the river, made for a favorable crossing for many, including Native Americans. The ferry crossing had been in use for over 200 years and was the oldest ferry in continuing operation in the United States.

We had accessed the ferry in the past, when we had returned from an airport drop off, sat outside Drew’s on the River and toasted to shipping off another kid. The café officially opens April 3, appropriate. Imagining the ferry as horse-powered provides quite the startling contrast to today’s transportation efforts.

River Road was once called “The Stretch”, developed as part of the first turnpike system. For anyone following the current Brent Spence Bridge toll debate, there was also a toll road located nearby, in use until 1910. Wealthy families rode in their carriages out for rides on Sundays. The community enjoyed its autonomy and affluence for many years. In 1890, Riverside’s population was near 2100.

As recent at 2005, builders proposed development that would have included Target, WalMart, or other large retail chains, but nothing came to fruition. This sign indicates the area is once again being considered for large-scale development, as down below already contains manufacturing and other light industries.

Looking up from Riverside Road, a fair portion of hillside is dedicated to Embshoff Woods nature preserve, but not accessed via Riverside.

My legs had grown weary from our second six-miler in a row. We turned for home, first encountering this billboard, which I posted to Facebook. Herein is one of many reasons I objected, stating later: This billboard sends a message that mommies need a makeover at all, suggesting that even during this life-altering time, society will still be conscious of and perhaps demand that a mother attain the perfect body.

We also passed the Riverside Academy (a charter school) where my eyes were drawn to a makeshift bus shelter at an actual Metro bus stop. My husband and I both snapped photos, incredulous that a bus stop on a main route, near a school would have, as its shelter, a metal lean-to frame.

Upon our return home, Mark posted his photo to a Facebook politics group. And there ensued the uproar over the bench. What kind of bus system we were running in the city (other than one that needs more funding and a complete overhaul in its logistics)? And because the bench had been brought to the attention of the SORTA board, confusion reigned on whether removal was required or necessitated due its to lack of compliance. (At last check, the bus shelter remained.)

Policies that allow for the removal without replacement for some of our most basic needs of bus riders are foolish. Bus systems that lack the connection for people to access over 75,000 current jobs are antiquated. Anything less than an overhaul is an embarrassment to our city. This is not a transportation issue.

If those jobs are inaccessible, so is education, and access to a way of living that is a want for all citizens. As is the case, people don’t often choose where they live, they live where they do, because of generations of others. Or because they are financially mobility-challenged.

Many homes in Riverside are spectacular, others falling into disrepair. The neighborhood council is named Riverside Civic and Welfare Club. For those not familiar, there is currently an expansive plan for biking and hiking trails along our river’s western edge. Gilday Riverside Park is a part of that trail, and I hope the city continues to create a viable development at the base of the river in Riverside. With so many moving citizens moving into the city, this looks like a promising neighborhood, and I’m sure many will want to visit Jim and Jacks with live entertainment and the COD father as the marquee menu item.

While the bus shelter argument will live on, if we, as city, have communities with access to groceries,  jobs, and safe and healthy neighborhoods, transportation becomes less important. Riverside has access, character, and history. They deserve a viable bus shelter too.

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