Tree planting in park sign of final phase of tornado recovery for Harrison Twp.

The planting of three oak trees in Sinclair Park on Friday was about much more than trees.

The Harrison Twp. park was destroyed by the Memorial Day tornadoes that ripped through the region in 2019 — a total of 375 mature hardwood trees were lost.

“Trees are a symbol of hope, they are a symbol of the wellness of a community, and they are really a huge identity marker of our region,” Harrison Twp. Service Director Merle Cyphers said.

It took over 7,000 man hours to clean up the debris and destruction, and Sinclair Park was not fully cleaned up until end end of March 2020.

The tree planting ceremony Friday signified that the rebuilding long journey is nearing a close. Cyphers said that 98% of residents in the township have fully recovered since the tornadoes, and the city is finally in its final phase of rebuilding.

Woody Stroud, left and Harrison Twp. Trustee, Georgeann Godsey plant a tree at Sinclair Park Friday June4, 2021. The township held a tree planting kickoff at Sinclair Park to begin restoring the tree canopy lost to the Memorial Day tornados in 2019. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Woody Stroud, left and Harrison Twp. Trustee, Georgeann Godsey plant a tree at Sinclair Park Friday June4, 2021. The township held a tree planting kickoff at Sinclair Park to begin restoring the tree canopy lost to the Memorial Day tornados in 2019. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

“We needed to leave (Sinclair Park) for last because the residents’ homes were more important,” he said. “We are far enough along that we can finally focus on the public facilities.”

The Harrison Twp. Board of Trustees has plans to plant more than 400 trees in the next several years. Local partnerships with the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, Miami Valley Long-Term Recovery Operations Group, Miami Valley Treecovery Campaign, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Keep Montgomery County Beautiful, and help from volunteers has made the rebuilding of Sinclair Park possible.

A special guest was in attendance at the event on Friday afternoon. Woody Shroud was a camp counselor from 1955-1959 at a YMCA day camp that took place on the grounds of what is now Sinclair Park. He said a few words about his time as a camp counselor at the park at the ceremony.

“It was a beautiful facility here then, with sycamore trees everywhere, a beautiful canopy, and campers enjoying themselves running through the area,” Shroud said.

Shroud, along with all in attendance, showed visible excitement that a park that has served the community for so many years is finally getting rebuilt.

“I am delighted with what (Harrison Twp.) is doing and it truly brings back memories for me,” Shroud said.

Along with the plan to regrow the trees in the park, there are also plans to rebuild a park shelter that was also destroyed in the tornadoes. A playground has also been built and is now open for use at the park.

“The goal is to get the trees planted for the newer generations,” Cyphers said.

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