New Kettering park opens June 8; will honor WWII flying ace, have short zip line

Gentile Nature Park is behind the former Gentile Air Station / Defense Electronics Supply Center in the north-central part of Kettering

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Kettering’s newest park, which will include a zip line and bike path link to the University of Dayton, is nearing completion after decades in the making.

The 19-acre Gentile Nature Park is the city’s first constructed park in several decades, a $2.48 million project named for a World War II flying ace.

The site is at 915 Peach Orchard Road near Kettering Business Park — the former site of the air station honoring pilot and Ohio native Maj. Dominic Gentile. The park has been in the planning stages for about two decades and details have changed a few times, Kettering officials said.

“It’s like the third iteration of a project since I started,” Kettering Parks Recreation & Cultural Arts Director Mary Beth O’Dell said. “They did a really nice job with the topography and the contours and the elevations they put in for playground equipment.”

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

About 250 trees were planted along with thousands of shrubs and native plants, so “it’s really naturalized,” O’Dell said.

Set for a June 8 ribbon cutting, the park will have 13 pieces of playground equipment, a half-mile walking path, a bikepath link to the Dayton-Kettering Connector at Wiltshire Boulevard that leads to UD, and the 100-foot-long zip line, she added.

“It’s kind of divided into two different zip line spaces from the highest elevation on the playground to the lowest elevation on the playground,” O’Dell said.

The ride will have “all of the safety surfaces” beneath, she added. “But you’re not going to be that far off the ground. It’s just a very fun little zip line.”

Credit: STAFF

Credit: STAFF

The park will also include historical recognition of Gentile. The Piqua native was a fighter pilot who surpassed the record of another Ohioan, Eddie Rickenbacker, who downed 26 aircraft in World War I.

Gentile Park will fill a significant recreational void on the city’s north end, Kettering Assistant City Manager Steve Bergstresser has said, but it “will also be a tremendous asset to the city as a whole.”

O’Dell called it “a great addition to our park system amenities and for that neighborhood. My gosh, we’ve told them for 20 years they were gonna have a park and finally they have a park.”

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

Gentile Air Station was a major Kettering employer and later became the Defense Electronics Supply Center, mostly visible along Wilmington Pike, near the Smithville Road split. DESC’s closing was announced in the 1990s as part of a Department of Defense realignment that shifted its operations to Columbus.

The Kettering Business Park opened on the site a year after the military use closed, Dayton Daily News records show.

Gentile is Kettering’s 22nd park and adds to its more than 350 acres designated for recreation, according to city records.

From 2010-13, all of Kettering’s parks were renovated, O’Dell said. But city officials did not have specific data on when the last new park was built.

In the 1990s, Delco Park was acquired from General Motors and involved significant renovations, they said.

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