Volunteers work to clean up Greene County park destroyed by tornadoes

Volunteers gathered Friday morning to clean up the Russ Nature Reserve in Beavercreek after it was significantly damaged in the Memorial Day tornadoes.

Approximately 70 to 100 volunteers showed up to the cleanup hosted by Greene County Parks & Trails from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The volunteers attempted to clean up all areas that could be safely accessed by the public.

“The park suffered complete devastation,” said Jon Dobney, director of Greene County Parks & Trails. “The Russ House is a complete loss and took a direct hit from the tornadoes.”

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The Russ House was donated to the Greene County Parks & Trails organization by the late Fritz and Dolores Russ as a legacy honoring their passion for nature and education.

“On the Thursday before the tornadoes hit, we had just sent in the paper work to transform the interior of the Russ House into an event center,” Dobney said.

The ranch home was 4,000 square feet and was going to become a multi-use venue center. The ten-room home was going to offer meeting spaces, space for celebrations and more.

“Now we will have to demolish the house completely and it will be quite some time before we can think about rebuilding and creating the venue,” Dobney said.

An estimated 500 mature trees were destroyed in the Memorial Day storms according to Dobney. Debris and tree limbs lay all over the park in all different directions, he said.

The 93-acre property is located at 2380 Kemp Rd. in Beavercreek.

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The tornadoes also tore right through the “play scape” in the woods that was a playground for children made completely out of natural materials. This was a popular spot for Beavercreek families, Dobney said, but is now destroyed.

“Our plan on rebuilding will start somewhere in the next few months because of clearing out all of the tree debris. It will take a while and we have a professional company called Tree Masters working on clearing it out,” Dobney said. “Then the rebuilding can start once everything is safe.”

The organization will be planning another cleanup on a Saturday within the next few weeks when the reserve has less debris and is safer for volunteers.

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