Keehner Park is the third largest park in West Chester Township with 123 acres. VOA is the largest with 435 acres (Metro Parks of Butler County) and Beckett Park is second with 150 acres. Many people, however, think Keehner Park is the most fun because of the unequaled variety of activities found there.
Keehner Park is located on Barret Road on the ‘east side’ of West Chester and is nestled along the East Fork of the Mill Creek. This section of the Mill Creek is credited with being one of the cleanest sections of the creek – mostly because the Township has done nothing to alter it. Extensive woodland trails follow the creek and offer a beautiful scenic hike with a collection of wildflower specimens and a glimpse at history with an extensive collection of fossils and clay deposits. Please don’t take fossils with you, leave them for the next person to discover and enjoy!
West Chester (Union Township at the time) acquired Keehner Park from John and Hilda Keehner in 1976. The Township purchased 100 acres for $235,000 and 23 acres was donated. Naming it Keehner Park was a condition of the sale. The Bureau of Outdoor Recreation/Ohio Department of Natural Resources provided a grant of $169,250 and the Township Trustees approved another $70,000 to complete the sale.
The Keehner Park Amphitheater with its wooded backdrop is an ideal location for concerts, theatrical performances, and much more. Each year, the amphitheater is home to the Keehner Park Concert Series, as well as other community-sponsored outdoor performances. Activities at the amphitheater are free and open to the public. Lawn seating is provided, or guests are welcome to bring along a blanket or lawn chair. Concert attendees can bring food and beverage, but alcohol is not permitted in the park.
This year the first concert is scheduled on June 26 with the West Chester Symphony performing a ‘July 4th Patriotic Concert’. The concerts are Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m. There will also be a performance by The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The final concert of the season will be the Symphony on Labor Day (Monday).
The “Cabin in the Clearing” is a circa 1833 log cabin that was actually built from two cabins! One of the cabins was moved here from Preble County in 1990 and the second one was from somewhere in West Chester. Local volunteers from various construction trades salvaged pieces from the two cabins to build the one 16×30-foot one-room cabin. It is a central location for many of the historical and educational programs offered by the Township, including:
• Nature Basket Program for children age 3 to 5 years old in the summer and fall,
• WOLF (World of Land, Forest and Friends) Program for children ages 5 to 12 for six weeks in the summer, and
• Pioneer Christmas when the Cabin is decorated for a traditional holiday celebration as Santa visits children from 1 to 4 p.m. Cozy up by the fire and taste real pioneer fare like rabbit stew, molasses cookies and spiced cider.
Call the Township at 759-7312 to register for the free WOLF and Nature Basket Programs.
Keehner Park hosts other annual events for children and adults! These events include:
• The spring Easter Egg Hunt for children 0 to 8 years old,
• Ice Cream Social at the first summer concert at the Amphitheater scheduled on June 26 this year,
• The Great Pumpkin Fest in early fall featuring a children’s costume contest, games, horse-and-wagon rides, petting zoo and more.
Keehner Park has also benefited over the years from volunteer performed improvements. Local businesses have performed Earth Day and special projects at Keehner Park planting trees, painting, spreading mulch, and cleaning up at the park. A group of Master Gardeners have planted a new pollinator garden and a group of children planted milk weed to attract butterflies. We also have some local enthusiasts who have built and helped maintain a 2+ mile mountain bike trail. Recently Eagle Scout candidates have planted trees, built trail kiosks and a gaga ball pit, relocated and updated a fire circle. The Township is currently working with an Eagle Scout candidate on a project to install new mountain biking and hiking trail makers in the park.
West Chester Township has made significant investments in Keehner Park in the recent past and is committed to continue to maintain the park in the future. In addition to the “big projects”, the Township spends on average $13,263.83 annually on maintenance and landscaping. From 2015 to 2020 the Township spent $424,728 on capital improvement projects and has budgeted another $226,500 in 2021 – 2022. The details follow:
• 2015 – East side water service replaced and restroom facilities (near multi-use court) renovated making them ADA compliant, costing $12,895 and $35,273, respectively.
• 2016 – New west side Playground installed ($28,074), the “Cabin in the Clearing” and Fox Shelter roofs replaced ($18,580) and new picnic tables replaced ($3,041).
• 2017 – West side restroom facilities (near the amphitheater) renovated making them ADA compliant ($37,900), parking lot and pathway resurfaced ($51,700), Amphitheater staining and garage door replacement ($6,214) and Hawk Shelter roof replaced ($4,427).
• 2018 – New east side playground installed costing $41,431.
• 2019 – Multi-use court (basketball, tennis and pickle ball) resurfaced/new fencing and Deer Shelter roof replaced costing $166,590 and $4,121, resp.
• 2020 – Amphitheater, Owl and Coyote Shelter roofs replaced costing $14,502.
• 2021 – “Cabin in the Clearing” Log Cabin repairs including log porch floor replacement to preserve integrity of the structure and maintain public appearance – $50,000.00.
• 2021 – Amphitheatre Improvements – Remodel backstage area of Amphitheatre and update electrical to preserve integrity of the structure and enhance amenities – $7,500.00.
• 2022 – Shelter Concrete Replacement – Replace concrete floor of Owl and Coyote Shelters (two of the four shelters on the west side of the park) to maintain the integrity of the structures – $14,000.00.
• 2022 – Sewer Connection – Tie the west restrooms into a new sewer line – $50,000.00.
• 2022 – Baseball Field Improvements – Replace backstops and covered benches to enhance the fields and maintain public appearance – $35,000.00.
• 2022 – Pathway Replacement – From the Owl Shelter to the restrooms and parking lot to comply with ADA specifications – $20,000.00.
Ohio Revised Code indicates that a township MAY have parks, but none are required. In West Chester Township with the Keehner, VOA and Beckett Parks, we are blessed with 708 acres of parks that greatly impact our quality of life. In addition to these parks, we also have The Square at Union Centre, the Upper Mill Creek Conservation Corridor and we’re currently working with The Nature Conservancy of Ohio for 46 acres of wetland mitigation on Township owned property located on Rialto Rd across from the Duke Energy Substation. The 46 acres will be “reclaimed” greenspace and developed into a park with primitive paths for hiking.
Be sure to take the family out this spring and summer to explore each of these wonderful ‘amenities’ and discover why West Chester is considered one of the best places to live in America!