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Picturesque Ohio village on endangered places list

CINCINNATI (AP) — A national group on Wednesday named a picturesque Ohio village as one of the nation's most endangered historic places and is calling on state authorities to scrap a transportation plan that village leaders and preservationists say could permanently scar the area.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Village of Mariemont among 11 endangered sites in the U.S. on its annual list, calling it a "uniquely idyllic American community" being threatened by an Ohio Department of Transportation plan that could put a highway in the area.

Among other sites on the list are Houston's Astrodome, under threat of demolition, and the first lighthouse built on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

With 3,400 residents, the Village of Mariemont is a quiet hamlet just 10 miles from downtown Cincinnati filled with Tudor-style architecture and centered around a charming town square, making it feel more like an English village than an Ohio suburb.

The village has been designated as a national historic landmark and has been named one of the best neighborhoods in America by the American Planning Association.

As part of a massive regional plan, the Ohio Department of Transportation is proposing to add a highway to one of two places: a beloved 80-acre wooded area that Mariemont residents use for hiking and gardening, or at a spot farther away and below the Little Miami River.

If the first location is chosen, Mariemont's quality of life would be at risk, said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"We're in the business of preserving places that are special and unique," Meeks said. "This is a nationally significant example of great design and urban planning, and we hate to see it impacted that way."

The plan is currently undergoing a lengthy environmental study and would need approval from a state agency and the Federal Highway Administration before securing funding and beginning construction — a process that's likely years away, said Steve Mary, deputy director of the transportation department's southwestern Ohio district.

Even if the transportation department chooses the controversial route, Mary said that no homes or businesses would be directly impacted and that other improvements could be made to the area at the same time, such as improved hiking trails.

"There's no development down there at all," Mary said. "They obviously want to protect their village, but the two portions where the roadway (is proposed) do not directly impact the village itself."

He said the new highway is needed to ease traffic congestion and reduce accidents in the area, where there are limited options for east-west routes.

Mariemont Mayor Dan Policastro has been one of the most vocal critics of the idea and said that he and other village leaders will fight it with all they've got.

"Where else around here can you walk out of the front door of your house and in a couple minutes you're in a nature preserve? You can't do that very well in the Cincinnati area," Policastro said. "They'd better not take that land away from those people. They'll go crazy."

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