Dayton park is back from the dead following tornado, neglect

Maya Queen, 5, enjoys the new playground equipment at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Maya Queen, 5, enjoys the new playground equipment at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A long neglected park in north Dayton that was torn to shreds by the Memorial Day tornadoes is back from the dead and looks better than it has in a long time and neighbors believe it has a bright future.

Even before the storm, Ridgecrest Park was in bad shape, with overgrown vegetation, deteriorating features and facilities and playground equipment that was shut down for safety reasons.

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Nouveau Thomas, 2, plays at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. She dressed as a lamb for Halloween. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Nouveau Thomas, 2, plays at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. She dressed as a lamb for Halloween. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Nouveau Thomas, 2, plays at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. She dressed as a lamb for Halloween. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The tornadoes and high winds that ripped through the park in May 2019 knocked down some mature trees and badly damaged the shelter and perimeter fence.

The tornado could have been the nail in the coffin.

But volunteers with the DeWeese Ridgecrest Youth Ambassadors and other neighbors have spent countless hours in the last several years cleaning up the park and making improvements.

Volunteers planted a few dozen trees in 2019, and eight have survived and are getting taller, and they also cut down some of the overgrowth, mowed the grass and completed other landscaping and beautification work, said Misty Thomas-Trout, vice president of the DeWeese Ridgecrest Youth Ambassadors, a nonprofit.

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Misty Thomas-Trout, vice president of the DeWeese Ridgecrest Youth Ambassadors, holds her daughter, Nouveau, while at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. The park had a ribbon-cutting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Misty Thomas-Trout, vice president of the DeWeese Ridgecrest Youth Ambassadors, holds her daughter, Nouveau, while at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. The park had a ribbon-cutting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Misty Thomas-Trout, vice president of the DeWeese Ridgecrest Youth Ambassadors, holds her daughter, Nouveau, while at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. The park had a ribbon-cutting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Volunteers removed debris leftover from the tornadoes, and the shelter’s roof was replaced using federal disaster funds, and the city also painted the structure and made upgrades to the restroom facilities.

Hopefully the rebirth of this park will inspire residents in other neighborhoods to take on similar kinds of projects, Thomas-Trout said.

“Just getting together and being committed — to me, it sets a good example for my kids,” she said. “It lets them know what they can do for community, and what that’s supposed to be and that it’s a sacrifice.”

Damaged sections of fencing have been replaced, and the city recently installed colorful new playground equipment, which was paid for with Issue 9 funds from the voter-approved increase to the earnings tax, neighbors say.

A new swing set was acquired and installed with the help of a neighborhood mini-grant, and a new net has been put on the volley ball court.

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Hudson Edwards, 4, enjoys the new playground at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. He dressed as the Mandalorian for Halloween. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Hudson Edwards, 4, enjoys the new playground at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. He dressed as the Mandalorian for Halloween. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Hudson Edwards, 4, enjoys the new playground at Ridgecrest Park on Sunday. He dressed as the Mandalorian for Halloween. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The park is still a work in progress, but it now has real attractions and gives kids a place to safe play — which the neighborhood sorely needed, said Mike Herrlein, president of the DeWeese-Ridgecrest Civic Association.

The roughly six-acre park also has history, because hall of fame baseball player Mike Schmidt grew up in the neighborhood and played little league there.

The back fencing of the batting cage is still standing.

The new playground equipment was installed last month, and the new swing set opened on Friday.

Sunday was the ribbon-cutting for the park, and the shelter was used to host a neighborhood Halloween party.

Brooke Queen, president of the DeWeese Ridgecrest Youth Ambassadors, said they hope to complete future projects to resurface the basketball and volleyball courts, add walking paths and a new mural and address drainage issues.

Other ideas include more trees, a nature-scape, sensory gardens and a small playground for very little kids.

“This is a beautiful park in a beautiful neighborhood,” Queen said. “DeWeese is like a hidden gem.”

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