Colerain Fire Chief Allen Walls disregarded pleas on behalf of 400 kids using Groesbeck Park for their football program to relocate his dream firehouse and preserve the only public football field in the area. Instead, township officials and Walls scheduled a "groundbreaking" photo op and brought in heavy equipment, dirt, and supplies to set the stage, (Video) further impeding the kids' programming activities just weeks before the township evicts the kids from the field entirely.
The fire department has many other options, but Colerain Township is steadfast in using this particular park in Groesbeck. Meanwhile, Wert Park is just 2 blocks down the street from the firefighters' current site with excellent egress. It has sufficient space for the firehouse on its front acreage that isn't used. Additionally, attendance at Wert Park is dismal, primarily because there are insufficient parking facilities despite being built under the banner of "Accessibility". Having the firehouse there would enable the park to actually be accessible to its disabled guests and provide sorely needed handicap-accessible restrooms, say a local advocacy group.
Moving the new firehouse to Wert Park would also preserve the intent and purpose promised to Colerain residents of remaining an athletic complex. Groesbeck Park has the only publicly-owned football field in the area, complete with a press box, bleachers, goal posts, and concessions. While other football fields exist, primarily in school districts, they all have their own football and soccer programs operating at the same time the 400 kids with the Colerain Little Cards program is running.
When Carrie Davis, Director of Child Advocacy for Rights & Equity, Inc., learned that Colerain wasn't going to wait for approval of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, as instructed, and the township was rushing the construction before the Little Cards program had found a new home, she asked,
How LOW will the Colerain FD go?
Colerain Township Trustee tee Matt Wahlert, who is running for re-election, defended the eviction of the Little Cards program and broke down in tears defending himself when Davis questioned the 3 trustees' motivations, stating:
The Little Cards program has been operating out of Groesbeck Park under various names since 1967. It serves 400 kids from the area and a significant number of the football players, cheerleaders, and coaches are minorities. All 4 elected officials attended Catholic schools and were privy to great athletic facilities for their own kids. Hitting that chord, Davis added,
If this were St. Ann's kids or St. James' - this wouldn't be happening."
Davis is baffled by the lack of empathy for these kids from the Colerain Fire Department, the trustees, and Fiscal Officer, Jeff Baker who has sat silently on the sidelines, failing to propose any financial solution to the problem. Complicating matters is the township's purchase of Sears at Northgate Mall for $2.2M from the petty cash reserves of the township. While Wahlert cried for his own reputation, he doesn't shed a tear for these kids, says Davis.
For now, St. Ann's has generously been allowing the Little Cards to practice on their abandoned field at the rear of their property, but no agreement has been proffered to secure the Little Cards a practice field for the remainder of the season, much less in the years to come.
Once Groesbeck is bulldozed over - they may as well bury 50 years of the Little Cards program with it.