Pooh on the Ninety-Acre Burnet Woods

CLARABURNET8.27.14

Clifton, 2015

Everything about  this photo is Clifton and Burnet Woods.  Clara is 4, she was born in a Cincinnati hospital, like her father was, and her grandmother, aunt, grandfather and 3 generations before her. Her mother knows Clifton like the back of her hand and shows Clara the heart of it. A lifelong resident of Clifton, she thrives on the community and neighborhood. She attends preschool in Clifton, eats ice-cream from Graeter’s, goes to the new Boss Cox’s Public Library (a friendly moniker for the old place made new, directly across from Burnet Woods) and Clara borrows Winnie-the-Pooh books from their stacks and eats at Habarnero’s. A new book, The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh, by Aalto, seems to be a great excuse for a grownup to revisit the 100-acre woods, where everything in the stories is shown in real life.

After a Skyline supper recently, across from Burnet Woods, Clara’s father purchased Clara a soft black bear; immediately christened Blinky. Bought from a local entrepreneur on Ludlow Avenue; Aariety, owned by this writer’s really fine next door neighbor. We then took Blinky and ourselves down the longest, deepest trail alongside a small brook, that runs through Burnet Woods. All we had to do to instantly be in this 90-acre woods was cross the street at the crosswalk from Skyline. Within 2 minutes the three of us were transported into a verdant land of realness of trees, soil, paths and water. A tracing through time, residents now and then behind every tree; a botanical lushness touted by the Audubon Society as an ‘Important Birding Area’.

Clara doesn’t know any of this. But she knows this 90-acre woods is real and important enough to immediately re-enact what she does know…that this Burnet Woods looks and feels like the 100-acre Woods in her Winnie-the-Pooh Book, again, to mention a real book on the real 100-acres, we can all be map-explorers. It’s an enlivening of Clara’s imagination…and her daddy and I spent time there with Clara and Blinky being nestled into nooks and crevices of the Sycamores grown to age, convening with elements that lined the paths we ambled that afternoon.

For a final woods-moment, Clara slid Blinky down the concrete slide for his first Burnet Woods visit that day. (what will be its demise if the encroaching ‘mall-izing’ of Burnet Woods takes definition?)…Clara’s great-grandmother went down it in the 1930’s, at age 5, living on Bishop Street…. The eclipse of things that matter occurs when Clara swooshes down it like thousands of others before her.

Clifton, Burnet Woods, 1838                                                                                

Elijah Wood was the first resident of Clifton. His wife and 3 children came to Cincinnati in 1832….he purchased 70 acres of land…he cleared it for farming. He would frequently go out and find deer and wild turkeys in the woods that are now Burnet Woods.”     (Nellie Brown’s scrapbook)

In 1838, at the northern limits of what we know as Burnet Woods today, Howell Gano would wait for his father, G.W. Gano, to walk home from downtown as cashier of the Lafayette Bank where he worked all week. When it was too muddy to walk on to the farm, Howell would “sit on the fence at the northern limit of Burnet Woods and wait till his father came along, when he would jump up behind him on the horse and ride the rest of the way home, up Clifton Avenue to their farm”.  (Clifton’s Howell Avenue was named after Howell Gano)                                                          

Evidently, the edge and egress of the woods has helped define Clifton community and society from the start, and is recognized as part of the collective identity of the residents. Keeping a woods as part of a city’s identity (minus the fabricated fear recently touted, to instill a desperate need to destroy most of the elements that make it a urban green space) is worth more than any levy proposed by anyone.

Robert Burnet and William Groesbeck created Burnet Woods in the 1870’s. Sure, a portion was sold to the University of Cincinnati  in the 1950’s, but that act should not give a sense of ‘give away’ or entitlement to change for the general society, by any individual or group with narrowed interpretations of the use of the park land.

Dan Ransohoff, a real go-to guy, 1950:

The late Dan Ransohoff, associate professor of Community Planning, with a Columbia masters degree in Social Work, and advocate of all things in his hometown Cincinnati…….he could run from ancient history predating Fort Washington and those tectonic plates, to the effects of the Industrial Revolution on our canals that ribboned through Mohawk.  He at times wore a long trench-coat..and it fluttered when he moved in his exuberant manner through corridors, alleys and lecture halls.

The following is an excerpt from a Ransohoff  article written on living in Clifton, which is where he lived and worked of his distinguished and extraordinary life. “Clifton is a small town – that’s the first thing to understand….Most of the things to say about Clifton are what it isn’t.  It isn’t just a neighborhood; it’s a way of life. “

Ransohoff would most likely approve of this article, given his reputation. In 1950, with expansion and progress in our country at an all time high, Dan Ransohoff was part of  the Citizens League to Save Burnet Woods, afterword the efforts still leading the University of Cincinnati to eventually gain acreage of the Woods. His passion helped further the love and respect for Burnet Woods, in spite of the acres sacrificed.

It’s “Pooh” on Instant Woods and Parks Make-overs:

There are no short-cuts in producing everlasting improvements  to things that count in life. Urban green spaces can be destroyed in a matter of weeks by men and a backhoe, and anyone who knows about the 100-Acre Wood and A.A. Milne, can understand the sense behind all this rhetoric, considering what we think is best as a society for our common areas. While improvements may be in order to maintain a community’s geographic symbols such as a park, a forest, a town square and fountains; read the link attached, for a near college-level short course in how to implement a brilliant alternative to what’s currently proposed for Burnet Woods by our Mayor and his supporters.

The Re-Imagining Burnet Woods, Fall-2014 project gives inspiration as to how an urban green space can be given a new lease, yet still be an ecologically viable environment for all people and living things. It’s an impressive example of how much skill, education, thought and meeting after meeting is imperative to produce an improved green urban environment. Our imagination, as to how best be stewards of urban land for  the sake of everyone in our society, not a few, can be put to the test reading Re-Imagining Burnet Woods . If you read this paper you can’t help but visualize the planning, consortiums, sensing, analyzing, theorizing and communicating involved in order to secure the green will stay green….if implemented through guidance and professional skill and wisdom. While considering ourselves a little, there’s mostly Clara, and her whole future generation, (alongside Blinky, Pooh and all matters of a 100-Acre Woods, or 90-Acres in the case of Burnet) who will be the most fortunate beneficiaries. Instant make-overs a bit stuffed with fluff, if anyone should ask Clara.

http://www.uc.edu/cdc/niehoff_studio/programs/healthy_resilient/Fall2014/Plan%20Making/Burnet%20Woods%20PMW%20Art%20report.pdf

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