Dayton aims to sell tornado-damaged land to MetroParks

Dayton is considering selling a tornado-damaged property that was formerly home to a tree nursery to Five Rivers MetroParks.

MetroParks wants to create a natural barrier to the Stillwater River using the vacant land and a property that contains what’s left of the Foxton Court apartments, which were destroyed by the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes.

City commissioners on Wednesday had the first reading of legislation to transfer about 58 acres of vacant land to the park system.

The land is bordered by Shoup Mill Road to the north, the Stillwater River to the south, and Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark to the east/southeast.

The Memorial Day tornadoes three years ago wrecked about 22 Foxton Court apartment buildings, which were irreparably damaged. There was also significant damage to trees on the property.

In exchange for the tree nursery property, MetroParks will demolish and remediate the Foxton Court apartments, which is expected to cost about $1.9 million, city documents state.

MetroParks wants to make the land into a natural barrier around the Stillwater River, enhancing flood control protection and providing natural recreation space, says a memo from Todd Kinskey, Dayton’s director of planning, neighborhoods and development.

The former city tree nursery has not been used since the early 2000s, Kinskey said, and both the nursery and the apartments are in a flood zone and are unsuitable for redevelopment.

MetroParks has been awarded grant funding for the project, and the purchase agreement is contingent on the organization receiving grant assistance.

MetroParks will own Foxton Court and they plan to demolish all buildings, pavement and utilities to return the site to a natural habitat, said Carrie Scarff, MetroParks’ chief of planning and projects.

“It will act as a buffer and strengthen the open space corridor along the Stillwater River,” she said.

MetroParks also will remove invasive species from the tree nursery, Scarff said.

Foxton Court was devastated by the 2019 tornadoes and since then it has attracted looting, vandalism and arson, Scarff said.

“The site has been a drain on police and firefighter resources and has become a significant eyesore in the community along a very well-traveled road,” she said.

She added, “MetroParks is grateful to the city of Dayton for their leadership and skilled efforts to transition this site from blight to a beautiful wooded river corridor.”

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