Volunteers have helped clean the banks of the lake near Lakeside Drive and South Gettysburg Avenue in the Pineview neighborhood. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton lake, former amusement park site, to reel people in again

A lake on Dayton’s west side that was once home to an amusement park is being cleaned up and may again become a popular place where people go for fun and recreation.

The natural spring lake at the northeast corner of Lakeside Drive and South Gettysburg Avenue has been getting some TLC after years of neglect.

Volunteers, including residents of the nearby Lakeview and Pineview neighborhoods and local unions members, have helped clean the banks and areas around the lake, removing trash, honeysuckle and overgrown brush.

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Vintage photographs of roller coasters, spinning rides and water slides capture Dayton’s love of amusement parks.

But the lake’s restoration is taking an even bigger step forward with plans to build a fishing pier as well as new walking paths, signage and entry points.

Outdoor recreation is a large and important part of Ohio’s economy, and improvements to the lake could help boost interest in investing and redeveloping that section of west Dayton, officials said.

“With the west Dayton framework, we’re trying to figure out ways to have people from the across the community come in and really invest,”said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.  “For years, folks have said I really want to fish in this lake, and there will be kids around and it will be a great asset.”

The area around the lake by Lakeside Drive and South Gettysburg used to be home to Lakeside Amusement Park, which opened in the summer of 1890 and remained in operation until the mid-1960s.

The area around the lake by Lakeside Drive and South Gettysburg used to be home to Lakeside Amusement Park, which opened in the summer of 1890 and remained in operation until the mid-1960s.

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The park had roller coasters, a carousel and a ride in which people sat in a boat as it plunged down a chute into the water.

The park was a well-known and popular attraction. The lake was regularly used by paddle-boaters and fishers.

But the lake fell on hard times after the park closed and U.S. 35 was constructed, which passed overhead of the Gettysburg and Lakeside intersection.

Some people still use the lake for fishing, but they have to climb over a guard rail to access the water.

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Lakeside Amusement Park opened at Gettysburg and Lakeview Avenues in Dayton during the summer of 1890. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

The Garden Club of Dayton recently spent time cleaning up the lake, and there has now been three organized clean-ups, with another planned for August.

Volunteers have filled multiple dumpsters with trash, and there’s still more work to do, officials said.

“It’s morphed into a pretty big project that has some legs now,” said Karen DeMasi, director of community development with CityWide, which is assisting with the project. “We want to restore the lake and improve it … to make it look like what it was — which was beautiful.”

Groups that are working to restore the lake include CityWide, the city of Dayton, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and local neighborhood groups.  
One of the main partners is the Ohio AFL-CIO, which is the umbrella organization for unions across the state, representing about 600,000 workers.

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Supporters and the partner organizations say they want to build a floating fishing pier on the water, as well as new parking, pathways and dedicated entryways.  

Local officials said the project likely will require tens of thousands of dollars of work and materials — possibly more than $100,000 — which under some circumstances might be a daunting financial challenge.  

But the Ohio AFL-CIO hosts an annual benefit dinner, the proceeds of which support conservation projects. This year’s dinner, held in March, will help fund the purchase of the pier.  

Union members also provide labor and materials to transform the lake. The hope is to install the fishing pier this fall, though the project may have several stages.  

“We give back to the communities and neighborhoods we live in and where our members live,” said Jeanette Mauk, field director of the Ohio AFL-CIO, who lives in this area. “All the funds that we raise go directly back into a project that deals with conservation and is something that will be sustainable.”  

Last year, Ohio AFL-CIO, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and various building trade local groups helped rebuild Atrim Park’s pier. The project involved $20,000 in materials as well as 1,000 hours of manpower.

The restoration project is part of efforts to revitalize a variety of neighborhoods in west Dayton.  

The clean-up corresponds with a plan to upgrade the lighting at U.S. 35 overpass at Gettysburg. The new LED lights are partly intended to help showcase the lake. 

Outdoor recreation is big business in the state and supports economic development in local communities, directly contributing to 215,000 Ohio jobs annually and $24.3 billion in consumer spending, according to a report released Wednesday by the Outdoor Industry Association.  

“This will send a positive signal that there’s good things happening in Dayton and investment to be made here,” DeMasi said.

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