The West Coast oysters are from Vancouver, British Columbia, our friendly server informs us from behind her mask at Senate restaurant in Summit Park. My boyfriend and I have decided to indulge in oysters, bloody marys, and a massive platter of poutine before ascending 153 feet to one of the region’s highest viewpoints atop the park’s Observation Tower.
City planners have been developing Summit Park on the former Blue Ash Airport property for about a decade now. The first phase—which included four restaurant spaces, a popular playground, great lawn, and events stage—opened in 2014. The tower followed in 2016.
People are not deterred by the on-and-off rain on this mid-week afternoon. Pet owners walk dogs, and caretakers follow kids on the playgrounds. Blue Ash estimates roughly a million people visit the 130-acre park per year.
We polish off the poutine and pay our tab, stepping into the fresh air. Umbrellas rolled up at our sides, we stroll toward the tower. The air smells of hydrangeas—or maybe it’s the Japanese lilac trees.
We walk past giant swings that flank the lawn, like the ones at Smale Riverfront Park downtown, and approach the tower. Once inside its glass elevator, we head up to the 360-degree top deck. The height is equivalent to standing on the 27th floor of the 40-floor Great American Building downtown.
The highest point in Hamilton County might be Mt. Rumpke landfill and the highest natural point might be in Mt. Airy, but Summit Park got its name because it’s among the highest elevations around. On a clear day you can see some of downtown’s skyscrapers, the Kings Island Eiffel Tower in Mason, Mt. Rumpke in Colerain Township, and Top Golf in West Chester.
A birds-eye view of the immediate scenery in the park is fun, too. To the west, about half of the park is natural or evolving to a more natural state, including the Sycamore Creek headwaters restoration project. We spy a blue heron fishing in a pond, and behind it kids glide down zip lines and climb wooden jungle gyms.
We take the elevator to the lower observation deck, 26 feet from the ground, to see the view from closer range. Then we descend the rest of the way and exit the west side of the tower in time to see our heron friend catch a fish. Construction noise spills over from work sites on the park’s southern periphery, where a 290-unit luxury apartment complex is being built along with 250,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space.
The Observation Tower is free and open year-round 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. It hosts a farmers’ market every Wednesday afternoon along with weekly yoga, Zumba, and line dancing classes through the end of September. The city has an ice-skating rink there in the winter.
We enjoy a top-notch afternoon and talk of returning—for both the view and the oysters.
Summit Park, 4335 Glendale-Milford Rd., Blue Ash