Smale Riverfront Park

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Project Team

  • Cincinnati Parks – Owner
  • U.S Army Corps of Engineers – Owners
  • Hargreaves Associates – Master Planner
  • Sasaki Associates Inc – Landscape Architect
  • Aquatic Design & Engineering – Aquatic Designer
  • Hydro Dramatics – Fountain Equipment Supply, Fabrication, and Programming
  • Crystal Fountains – Water Feature Product Manufacturer
  • Miles Wolf – Photography

Parts Used

Smale Riverfront Park is a park for the generations – a compelling recreational, entertainment and leisure resource for the entire Greater Cincinnati community. Its many varied features – including fountains, walkways, gardens, event lawns, playgrounds and restaurants – contribute to the emotional and physical health of its citizens, to the economic vitality of the region, and to the exceptional quality of life and experience to be cultivated and enjoyed throughout the area.

This 45 acre development located downtown Cincinnati between the Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium emphasizes the promotion of emotional and physical well-being for Cincinnati citizens through biking. Features in the park ensure that the entire area is accessible for riders, and if guests require transport for the day, the bike center in the park rents out bicycles, strollers, and other mobility equipment to provide a healthy means of transport for everyone. The park is also a section of the Ohio River Trail, a multi-use bike trail along the Ohio River that will eventually connect Madison, Indiana to New Richmond, Ohio. As a bonus, this focus on biking encourages people to bike to work and bike to the park; something that reduces the individual use of cars and the burning of fossil fuels.

In addition to the emphasis on biking, Smale Riverfront Park has several “green” features that contribute to its sustainability efforts. The stair and elevator structure has a vegetated green roof, while the onsite restaurants, the Bike Center, the restrooms and the maintenance spaces are all heated and cooled with a geothermal system.

Competing with a carousel as the highlight of the strip, the water features provide both beauty and fun for guests of Smale Riverfront Park. The Grand Steps in particular, complete with a bike “runnel” carved into the granite that allows riders to easily roll bikes down the stairway, is flanked by dramatic cascades and waterfalls which tumble into pools along the Mehring Way. The steps become magical at night as they’re illuminated with an endless combination of colors. Additionally, colorful water curtains fall from glass balconies which abut a plaza filled with interactive water jets.

This interactive splash pad, known as the Main Street Fountain, is capable of sequenced water and light shows made possible with over 40 of Crystal’s popular ChoreoSwitches with LED lights. The dual effect modes of the splash pad offer increased versatility, as the deck floods or drains during its performance, allowing for a more playful interactive experience and impressive shows. Providing refreshing relief for park visitors and bikers, and endless fun for children, this feature promotes the Park’s message of healthy living and community strengthening.

Smale Riverfront Park was named in honor of John G. and Phyllis W. Smale. John, the former Chairman of Proctor and Gamble, presented a 20 million dollar gift to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation for the construction of a park in memory of his late wife, who spent decades trying to raise funds for the city’s green spaces. Upon his death in 2011, the park was renamed to recognize John, too.

In future phases of construction, the park will extend west and will include such features as a transient boat dock, adventure playgrounds, and promenades, in addition to more gardens, tree groves, and fountains.

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