W. M. Johnson Hills Park Plan
Initially established 4/2015; updated & reviewed 1/12/2016, 2/14/2017 and 2/13/2018.
W. M. Johnson Hills Park (“Johnson Hills”) plan was developed with community input, featuring an emphasis on active recreation in a passive setting. The Anderson Park District hired one of the most innovative, and well-respected firms in the Cincinnati area, Human Nature, to develop a plan to meet the recreational needs of the community, while incorporating a nature-based design. In conjunction with the neighbors of W. M. Johnson Hills Park and the community, this plan was established as a guide to improve the park. The initial plan was developed in 2001, and was subsequently revised in 2009 and again in 2015.
W. M. Johnson Hills Park improvements will take many years to accomplish and like most other Anderson Park District parks, it will be accomplished in phases. There is room for the plan to evolve pending available funding, community needs, use patterns, permit processes, etc. A priority for the Board of Park Commissioners is to make decisions that allow future Boards to meet the needs of the community. Their intent is to refrain from making promises which tie the hands of future Boards regarding what they can or cannot do for the community.
The vision for W. M. Johnson Hills Park has always been of a different flavor than the other Anderson parks. It was purposefully acquired to round out the Anderson Park District’s offerings to the community. The plan to include facilities and activities that complement the natural gifts of the property is a priority for park development. Athletic fields scheduled for sports leagues are not currently represented on the plan. The playground envisioned will have a nature theme with playscape features. While Johnson Hills is not intended to be a nature preserve, the trails and open space are represented as prominent components in the park design.
Park History Timeline
Mrs. Marian Barbour Johnson approached the Anderson Park District about creating a legacy in honor of her late husband, William McNeilan (“Mac”) Johnson. The Anderson Park District and Great Parks of Hamilton County (“Great Parks”) paid Mrs. Johnson $1,125,000 (Anderson Parks $625,000; Great Parks $500,000). This purchase enabled Mrs. Johnson to live out her life on her property. One restriction on the property was included in the deed: the property must remain a park in perpetuity. Mrs. Johnson personally requested the following of the Anderson Park District: Include Mac’s name in the name of the park and recognize the headwaters of the Dry Run Creek.
Mrs. Johnson passed away on August 12th. Upon her death, Mrs. Johnson’s estate conveyed 45 acres to Great Parks; 80.6 acres to the Anderson Park District; and her house and the surrounding 10.4 acres to the Anderson Park District (the Daughters of the American Revolution had the right of first refusal).
The property officially became public park property in June. The existing private horse stable business continued, and a family continued to rent the house off Crooked Stick. The Anderson Park District began to gather community input and suggestions for park improvements.
The first public planning process was conducted.
W. M. Johnson Hills Park opened to the public with limited use, including no dogs, because of the private horse stable operation. The Anderson Park District dedicated a part-time Operations employee to the park.
2009 – 2010
A second public planning process was conducted. Several Open Houses were part of this well-publicized public input process.
The private horse stable operation moved out, enabling the public to fully access the park, including the pastures. Unsafe structures were removed and areas of the park were cleaned up, including the removal of fencing and debris.
A community-wide public input process began to determine future park improvements for all the Anderson Parks, including W. M. Johnson Hills Park.
The last of Mrs. Johnson’s tenants moved out in March.
The plan for W. M. Johnson Hills Park was boiled down to a Phase I, ten year plan, to better explain the Board’s intentions for the park improvements. The well-publicized public input process included an Open House.
The Anderson Park District’s survey to continue operations passed by the largest margin on record (61%) for an Anderson Park District operating levy.
Improvements have been made at W. M. Johnson Hills Park every year since the property became the responsibility of the Anderson Park District. An array of programs, camp outs, clean-up events, and rentals have been hosted at Johnson Hills every year since 2000.