Cincinnati, OH

Activist artists raise their voices along Cincinnati's Wasson Way trail

Holly Slater

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Wasson Way Trail in Cincinnati, OhioPhoto by Holly Slater

I first experienced Cincinnati's Wasson Way trail when my sister started forcing me to exercise with her.

I joke about being forced. Mostly.

Our neighborhood's new cement path, which welcomes everyone from bikers and runners to skaters and four-legged friends, currently runs from Montgomery Road and Dana Ave in Norwood to Marburg Avenue in Hyde Park.

Right now, the path is about 2.5 miles long. That means when I park my car at Dana Gardens (my very favorite Xavier bar) and run to the very end of the trail and back, I'm getting a full 5 miles in.

My sister's been running this path every week, even in the blazing heat. At least we have the lovely end-game opportunity of enjoying a beer at Dana's after our hard workout. Health is all about balance, after all.

Don't get me wrong. I look up to my big sis for the insane motivation she's had these past couple of years to get in shape and improve her health in a big way. I join her in the hopes that some of her self-discipline will rub off on me. But first, I decided to scope out the trail and give it a trial run by myself before I joined her.

Unlike my sister, who is a heroic healthcare worker on her feet all day for 12 hours at a time, I sit at a desk all day and string words together. I'm totally out of shape, and I was pretty slow-going that first time out on the path. But that gave me a chance to admire the view.

There are a lot of little details to admire, especially when it comes to the different pieces of artwork you can find, created by local artists and hung by people who care about making our city a better place for everyone.

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Artwork on Wasson WayPhoto by Holly Slater

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Artwork on Wasson WayPhoto by Holly Slater

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Artwork on Wasson WayPhoto by Holly Slater

The messaging along the city's new bike path is clear. Be kind to everyone. Raise your voice to change the world for the better. Lift others up. End racism.

It all resonates, and it's all very relevant. I'm happy to say that it's also playing out in reality—not just in pretty artwork. Last month on June 30, the city hosted a Pride Parade on Wasson Way, and the turnout was incredible.

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Pride Parade on Wasson Way, June 30, 2021Photo Courtesy of the Wasson Way Project

As an urban trail, Wasson Way is becoming a reflection of the thriving, loving, and accepting community we want. It's a simple bike path, but at the same time, it's so much more.

This particular message, calling for an end to the shame and stigma of mental illness, strikes a personal chord for me:

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Artwork on Wasson WayPhoto by Holly Slater
"It's okay to not be okay. #stopthestigma."

Part of the reason I love to run or walk in nature is because it clears my head. It helps keep my anxiety disorder in check and curbs my depression.

Medication helps me as well, but meds aren't a replacement for the endorphins I get from moving my body. And, lucky for us in this part of Cincinnati, we'll get to move our bodies across the city a whole lot more when the trail is finished!

The next phase of construction is already underway and will extend the path's distance 1.25 miles, beginning at Marburg Avenue and ending at Old Red Bank Road. The extension is set to be complete this winter.

The final phase of the path will be built between Xavier University and Avondale. It will add 0.8 miles, beginning at Woodburn Avenue and ending at Blair Court. The work for this phase begins in the summer of 2023, with a goal to be completed by spring the following year.

By the time it's finished, the Wasson Way path will connect 83,000 residents to multiple restaurants, shopping centers, offices and schools. It will help transform the region by increasing mobility and accessibility, reducing vehicles and congested traffic, and increasing health and wellness.

I've always loved running. And I've always loved a nice, peaceful place outside to do it. It's wonderful to see our community working hard to make improvements, and I look forward to zipping across Cincinnati on foot more often.

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Cincinnati, OH
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