Guest Column

 Guest Column

Various groups help community return spring-fed lake to its former glory.

By Karen DeMasi of CityWide

Early in my community development career I was asked to present a large-scale plan for community revitalization to a group of funders. At the end of the presentation I was asked, “What is the first outcome you expect to achieve?” I simply answered: hope.

When asked to explain further, I said hope is realized when we believe in the vision and aspirations of a community and help them achieve something important to them. The restoration of Lakeside Lake is such a project.

Lakeside Lake borders the Pineview neighborhood and is across the street from the Dayton VA Medical Center, one of Dayton’s largest employers. The 10-acre, spring-fed lake was once part of Lakeside Amusement Park, which opened in l890, and was an attraction for visitors to the Dayton Soldiers Home (today’s VA Medical Center). Lakeside Amusement Park closed in the mid-1960s.

Many Dayton residents have fond memories of visits to the lake, which offered fishing, boating and a beautiful vista. However, over the years honeysuckle and other invasive plants had marred the beauty and blocked the view of the lake from homes in Pineview, which sits at one of the highest elevations in the city.

After six months of community organizing and relationship-building work in the neighborhood, we realized the importance of the lake and what it meant to the community. The lake revitalization needed to be central to our larger community development strategy. As the plan for lake restoration came together neighborhood residents were energized and more partners got involved.

Five large community cleanups were organized over the last four months bringing volunteers from all over the city to help, including members of the Garden Club of Dayton, the University of Dayton River Stewards, UpDayton, Dayton Inspires and many more. Through this effort invasive honeysuckle and trash were cleared from the site and along the water’s edge. The efforts of the Pineview community received a significant boost when the lake restoration effort was selected by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Ohio AFL-CIO for its annual conservation project, bringing funding and skilled labor from union members throughout the state to help with the project.

The first phases of the lake restoration project have been completed. Through the support of Ironworkers Union Local 290 two iron benches were made for the site, including a large swing bench. Local Cement Masons Union 132 prepared the site for installation of a new fishing pier. The pier, valued at $25,000, was provided through the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance in collaboration with the Ohio AFL-CIO.

The Pineview Neighborhood Association has also raised funds for a new neighborhood identity sign and the Garden Club of Dayton is working with the association to establish a new perennial bed at the lake’s entrance.

Fundraising is currently underway to add a small parking lot, lighting and a paved path from the park entrance to the fishing pier next spring. Tax-deductible contributions for the project can be made to CityWide Neighborhood Development Corp., 8 N. Main St., Dayton, Ohio 45402.

We have all heard the phrase, “It takes a village”—the notion that collective action is required for real change to occur. The lake restoration effort embodies this philosophy and provides a tangible example of how consensus can be built among different groups to achieve the community’s vision.