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Sinclair Park rebuild is ahead of schedule after 2019 tornado but still has a ways to go

Sinclair Park on a gray, gusty morning.
Chris Welter
Sinclair Park on a gray, gusty morning.

Sinclair park was mostly destroyed by the Dayton tornadoes in 2019. The 14 acre park in Harrison Township was in the center of the path of the storm.

After the storm passed, the access road to the park off Shoup Mill road was blocked with 12 foot high piles of woody debris.

The tornado hit the old growth trees at Sinclair hard. Some of those trees were estimated from their growth rings to be up to 300 years old. The trees that still stood were defoliated and had their bark stripped. When it was all said and done, only about 50 of the 400 trees (or about 15 percent) remained.

It took thousands of hours of labor and cost over $700,000 to clean up the park, according to Harrison Township. To get the job done, they partnered with organizations like Five Rivers Metroparks and Retreet.

Three years later, the park is open to the public.

Some things are different. Most of the tree canopy is gone. Timber from downed trees that the township is hoping to repurpose is being stored in the parking lot. The indoor event center that was destroyed by the tornado hasn’t been reconstructed yet.

But other things are the same. The birds, rabbits, deer and fox are back. Residents are walking their dogs. Hundreds of new trees have been planted.

Merle Cyphers from the township said getting Sinclair Park back up and running was important.

“We were going to rebuild it from day one,” he said. “If you have a community that's thriving, it's largely based around parks and public activities.”

Cyphers said he thought it would take about five, not just three, years to get the park open to the public again. Now, he said the township is focusing on smaller details like repaving the walking paths, building a lookout for the adjacent Stillwater river and getting more benches and grills for the shelters.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.