Parts one of the dayton area favorite parks suffered damage described as minor to extraordinary during the Memorial Day tornadoes. The wooden boardwalk bridge in Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark’s The Swamp Forest was seriously damaged by the strongest of the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes to hit the Dayton area. It will be closed for the foreseeable future. Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson

Tornado damage in parts of popular MetroPark  ‘extraordinary,’ director says

“We are going to do what we can to rehabilitate the habitats and help the community,”  Five Rivers MetroParks’ Chris Pion said. 

The snapped, twisted and subsequently cut trees at Wegerzyn Garden MetroPark help tell the story of the 15 mindless beasts that roared through the Dayton area on Memorial Day.

As with trees growing in residential areas, many of those inside the 88-acre park were no match for the tornadoes. 

Chris Pion, Five Rivers MetroPark’s director of parks and conservation, and Kristen Wicker, the park system's marketing manager, look at tree damage near Wegerzyn MetroPark's community garden plots.
Photo: Amelia Robinson

>> Stories of Survival: Dayton gives back to restaurant owner after loss of son, home

Hundreds of bur oaks, silver maples, sycamores and other trees — some planted generations ago —  were broken in two or snatched up, roots and all.

“We lost some of the oldest native trees in our area,”  Chris Pion, Five Rivers MetroParks’ director of parks and conservation, told this news organization during a tour. “It will take a long time to replace them.”

>> RELATED: MetroParks wants to help replant trees lost in tornadoes
The park system is still evaluating damage at Wegerzyn, as well as at the Shoup Mill Conservation Area, located near Frederick Pike and Shoup Mill Road, and the Needmore Conservation Area, located near Needmore and Old Troy Pike.

Pion said Five Rivers will also determine how to best help the public recoup. 

STRATEGY TO BE DEVELOPED 

Parts one of the dayton area favorite parks suffered damage described as minor to extraordinary during the Memorial Day tornadoes. Wegerzyn Garden MetroPark’s formal gardens suffered relatively minor damage during the tornadoes. Trees on the edge of the gardens were damaged and debris had to be removed from some of the beds. Wegerzyn MetroPark’s Children Discovery Garden, one of the park’s most popular features, was not damaged. Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson

 “We are going to do what we can to rehabilitate the habitats and help the community,” he said. “We are not 100 percent sure how that is going to look, but we are going to come up with a strategy.” 

>> Stories of Survival: Brookville couple feels ‘lucky’

That strategy would include a plan to help residents impacted by the tornadoes replace their trees, Pion and Kristen Wicker, Five Rivers’ marketing manager, said.   

“That is at the heart of everything we do.  It is important that we be a part of that conservation,” Wicker added. 

Photo: Amelia Robinson

>> Photos: ‘extraordinary’ damage to parts of Wegerzyn MetroPark, other parts mostly untouched 

Pion said animal and plant life in the hardest hit section of Wegerzyn and the conservation areas will need help as well.

 “In areas where every tree is down, it is going to be difficult for that habitat to rebound (on its own),” he said. “We are going to have to come up with a way to help the environment heal.”

FEDERAL HELP WANTED 

Parts one of the dayton area favorite parks suffered damage described as minor to extraordinary during the Memorial Day tornadoes. Several Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark trees near Jay Lake and the community garden were damaged. This photo was taken after the tornado clean up. Chris Pion, MetroPark’s director of parks and conservation, said the road leading to the community garden’s entrance was eight feet deep in downed trees. Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson

Pion said the park system does not yet have all of the answers to the problem it faces. 

“We are still accessing how much natural area damage we had,” he said.

The park has budgeted for improvements and repairs, but could not plan for such a natural disaster, he added. 

Pion hopes that FEMA will provide some financial assistance. 

>> DeWine to Trump: ‘Declare major disaster’ for tornado damage

“It is very difficult to plan for damage like this,” Pion said. “We have a commitment to make things right in the park.”

Wicker said the park district has not finished assessing how much has been spent thus far to mitigate tornado damage. 

WHAT WAS DAMAGED, WHAT WAS SPARRED

Wegerzyn reopened Monday, June 10, two weeks after the most ferocious of the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes hit it at a vertical angle that went over Jay Lake and into the park’s swamp and wood.

It was critical to get the park, a popular attraction in one of the hardest hit areas of the Miami Valley, reopened, Pion said.  

“One of the biggest things that we can do is to provide this place for people to come to relax and heal themselves,” he said. 

>> Tornado relief: How you can help

Many of Wegerzyn’s most beloved parts were spared from the monstrous tornado that ebbed between EF-3 and EF-4 as it traveled from Brookville to Trotwood, to Harrison Twp. to Dayton and then on to Riverside.

Pion said Wegerzyn’s Children’s Discovery Garden and administration building were virtually untouched. 

Parts one of the dayton area favorite parks suffered damage described as minor to extraordinary during the Memorial Day tornadoes. Wegerzyn Garden MetroPark’s formal gardens suffered relatively minor damage during the tornadoes. Trees on the edge of the gardens were damaged and debris had to be removed from some of the beds. Wegerzyn MetroPark’s Children Discovery Garden, one of the park’s most popular features, was not damaged. Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson

Branches and other mangled flora that fell in the park’s manicured formal gardens have been removed. 

The tops of trees on the edge of several of the park’s gardens have been cut away for safety. 

That said, Pion called the damage that is there “extraordinary.”

Using the top of damaged trees as markers, he pointed out the clear path the storm took as it ripped through the park. 

“I’ve never seen storm damage that comes close to the magnitude that came through with the tornado,” Pion said. 

  

The wooden bridge in the Swamp Forest was smashed by giant trees. At one point near the middle, it is caved in and nearly halved. 

“We are going to have to do some serious inspection to see what is broken,” he said. “It is going to remain closed for a while.” 

The Marie Aull Trail will remain closed until dangerous branches can be taken out.  

Pion said the road leading to the park’s 355-plot community garden was eight feet deep in downed trees. 

Parts one of the dayton area favorite parks suffered damage described as minor to extraordinary during the Memorial Day tornadoes. The wooden boardwalk bridge in Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark’s The Swamp Forest was seriously damaged by the strongest of the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes to hit the Dayton area. It will be closed for the foreseeable future. Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson

A Montgomery County sewer pump station building was smashed. 

Much of the canopy of trees that surrounded the community garden and a section of parkland managed by the city of Dayton are gone. 

Parts one of the dayton area favorite parks suffered damage described as minor to extraordinary during the Memorial Day tornadoes. Several Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark trees near Jay Lake and the community garden were damaged. This photo was taken before the tornado clean up. Chris Pion, MetroPark’s director of parks and conservation, said the road leading to the community garden’s entrance was eight feet deep in downed trees. Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson

Now you can see tarps covering the roofs of nearby apartment buildings and houses. 

“When you think about the age of the trees that are lost, that is not something that can be easily replaced, Pion said.  

Photo: Amelia Robinson

Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

X