* This is the twenty-seventh in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. What will I learn? Where I will I go next?
Mark was off for the week, prior to a wedding invite. I prodded him to join me in California.
While California was the largest U.S. state by population. California was also Cincinnati’s smallest neighborhood, located along the Ohio River, with residents numbering around 500. Some months, the neighborhood also had no reported crime.
“I’m warning you, this one won’t be much fun. There’s interstates, waste treatment sites and a complete lack of sidewalks.”
He accompanied me regardless.
We parked near the Champions Baseball Academy, where I thanked my lucky stars Davis no longer played the game. While baseball was a beautiful game, it was also a painfully long game, and our son’s impatience he obviously inherited from me.
We started with the worst of walk. That is, walking along a narrow path beneath I-275, to circle around a triangle of California that existed on the other side of the highway. That piece consisted primarily of Coney Island. Of course, Coney Island HAD to be in California, to imply fun. Ironically, I had just observed my first Alzheimer’s Association Memories in the Making, where the focus had been on Coney Island and amusement parks. The park was closed, and it was doubtful the attendant would let me pass through just because “I’m walking all 52 neighborhoods.”
Yet, I have fond memories of Moonlight Gardens. More important, they were memories of my parents, who visited my older sister and I, and then my younger sister, so often, they really did consider the notion of moving to Cincinnati. But there was always something holding Dad back from making the move happen.
But my parents danced beneath the stars to the sounds of the Big Band era at Moonlight Gardens on occasion, compliments of whenever we bought them tickets.
We crossed over Kellogg and started up Sutton. Only one-half of Sutton was located in California, and that half, as well as the other, had no sidewalks. I did fear for my life because of traffic, more so than I had while walking neighborhoods others might not step foot in.
When it became clear our lives were clearly in danger, we turned back around to Kellogg, proceeded beneath I-275 again and paced ourselves along the road where a few historic homes overlooked the road and river. We caught a heavy whiff of the treatment plant and I hoped the residents who lived in California were not subjected to that odor on a daily basis.
A former schoolhouse had once hosted a Cincinnati Rec Center. Now, the building was home to the California Heritage Foundation.
Past the Cincinnati Water Works, we marched through grass. (Aside: Cincinnati water has been study as an option to bottle our own.)
Convinced there was another way to circle around, we ducked down the driveway of the Nature Preserve, occupying 113 acres of forest. Near the center, a parking lot created by pavers sat over top of a former pool, and the center had been the pool house. Though the bridge was closed that day, we managed to hit all the stepping stones to cross the creek. There were several well-maintained trails, but here was a hiking suggestion discovered online, written by a CityBeat writer several years ago.
The park also hosts plenty of summer camps, in case one is still looking to get the kids out of the house.
We found comfort in the woods that day, dissecting a contentious OTR Community Council held the night before, where several community organizers had questioned the process used in the voting procedures to elect new board members. It’s a given OTRCC will always be contentious, there were so many factions competing with other for the louder, stronger narrative.
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. – John Muir
Immersed in the forest, I slowed my mind and soul, to take in what nature intended. I had practiced yoga before our walk, and thus, my heart now took in its full complement of oxygen and life, returning me to a restorative state.
We circled around the backside of the golf course where Davis on occasion had played. Mark commented how there would be a little less golf in the household with Davis now gone for the summer. We headed down Apple Hill, crossed over Kellogg and walked through the actual neighborhood portion of California. There were approximately 12 streets along this area that abutted the river. One of those streets included the private yacht Satisfaction Cruise Line.
California had been named Grove City, after Coney Island’s original name. According to some old timers where my mother lives, boats once to transported passengers from the landing in downtown out to Coney Island for the day. I would do that, even at night, to miss the traffic generated during Riverbend Concerts. For the record, Riverbend had a Coney Island address, but that too had been unreachable due to the hours of the park.
California had a small business district, and an active council and development corporation, which helped advocate for development around the area.
Further beyond along Kellogg Ave, which we had eschewed on our walk, was Rivertowne Marina. There began more bike/walk access. Reading through the newsletter archives, California was in line for that access to continue.
For someone who spent many summers at Riverbend, and a few summers at Sunlite Pool, I was refreshed to see the “more” to the neighborhood. To position myself in a time and place when rivers flooded land and tears flooded lives.
The cross-section of the Little Miami and Ohio River was a dangerous place to create a settlement. A few of the homes appeared historic, and some had upgraded to a pool. The views back to Bellevue were stunning, which is why I suspect many generations who lived here had grown accustomed to living on the second or third floor when required, and probably liked it that way. And every once in a while, as John Muir says, their spirit and home were washed clean.