Enhancing community connections in Cincinnati, by reclaiming alleys, sidewalks, and steps for the pedestrian.
It’s been a wild ride for each of us. After seeing positive strides in 2019 at alley and stairway project sites in Pendleton and South Fairmount neighborhoods, plans for Spring in Our Steps’ ninth year took a bit of a detour: safeguards against COVID-19 and protests against violence and racism toward People of Color. Our attention has shifted to challenging ourselves to think bigger and more inclusively for the sake of our neighbors.
Spring in Our Steps continues to stand by our mission “to bring a brighter future to Cincinnati’s most neglected public corridors–such as public alleys and stairways–through cleanup, programming, advocacy, and preservation.” As much as it has been at the core of what we’ve done since the beginning, we must focus more of our core functions on why we have led so many cleanup events of public stairways and alleys in areas of concentrated poverty and glaring racial inequities. Not all walking connections are maintained equally. Public stairways in lower income neighborhoods are often found in a dilapidated or overgrown state, or closed entirely. This ultimately creates barriers to public transit access and further disenfranchises residents who do not own motor vehicles.
As we move into the second half of 2020, it feels very much like we are just getting our year started. Back in February, we shared time with volunteers and residents of South Fairmount to carve a path up the Fairmount Avenue Steps, from Liddell Street near Beekman to Saint Clair Heights Park. It was a fantastic way to get that invigorating high that comes with transforming a public stairway with dedicated community members. There was also the Stepping Up Cincy Virtual Cleanup in late April, an effort to stir something in people during pandemic fears. It prompted Spring in Our Steps board member John McCue to put a couple great hours into making Pitt Alley in Clifton Heights something to embrace again. Then we all hit pause. We would like to get back to that soon. But first…
We must all do better. Our work of building safe and equitable public walking corridors for all must start with better volunteer engagement, better communication with community partners, and better outreach about the value of bringing new life to this irreplaceable walking infrastructure. We must challenge our elected officials to dedicate more resources toward the maintenance and enhancement of the walking experience. We must demand equity in how the people may choose to navigate our Cincinnati.
When we first began cleaning up alleys and stairs in Mount Auburn in 2012, many questioning passersby asked if we work for the city. One hundred sixty-six cleanups later, we still must work for the city to make Cincinnati a safe and accessible place for everyone. But many neighborhoods have not received the attention they deserve for generations. We are driven by the need to reverse past offenses against the people of Cincinnati. No one needs to inherit and settle for substandard public space.
“Apathy doesn’t occur by accident. It’s the product of removing the assets people care about. It is the only likely outcome of degrading the built environment. Do you want residents to care? Give them things to care about.”Jeff Seigler, Revitalize, or Die.
Public stairways and stairways belong to the people. The time is now.
See you soon,
Executive Director of Spring in Our Steps