BEAVERCREEK — A little more than a year after tornadoes tore through Russ Nature Reserve, Greene County Parks & Trails (GCP&T) is launching a county-wide survey to obtain input from citizens about the best way to rebuild the property.
After the Memorial Day tornadoes damaged the reserve, GCP&T staff and volunteers cleaned up much of the park. But the Russ House — the former home of Fritz and Dolores Russ who donated their home and property to the county to create the nature reserve — was totaled. The home had been in the process of being renovated into a conference and visitor center when the storms hit. It had been scheduled to open in November 2019.
“When Jon Dobney was hired as GCP&T director in 2018, one of the first things he did was ask our citizens what they wanted and how we can be the best parks district possible,” said Parks District Commissioner Tobia Stinson.
That 2018 research and survey effort resulted in an overhaul of how GCP&T provides programming and events. Since then, program participation has continued to climb.
County Administrator Brandon Huddleson echoed Stinson’s remarks.
“We gave Jon one goal when he started and that was to get more people in our parks,” he said. “What we’ve seen over the past couple of years is a parks department that asks our citizens what they want and then delivers on those requests.”
In November 2019, Greene County citizens passed the parks’ renewal levy 71 percent to 28 percent.
“We think of ourselves as stewards of our citizens’ parks,” said Dobney. “As a result of our surveys, we came up with our new tagline — which is really how we see ourselves and those we serve — ‘1000s of acres. Miles of trails. It all belongs to you!’ ”
Dobney decided to go back to the citizens to ask what they thought about rebuilding the Russ property.
” … it was an easy decision to ask our citizens again. They know what they want,” he said.
Because of the damage done by the tornadoes, Russ Nature Reserve is a “blank canvas,” according to Huddleson.
“The Greene County commissioners are excited to hear from the community regarding ideas for this important property,” Huddleson said. “They have a deep respect for its history and look forward to its future.”
Citizens can take the quick survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/GCPT-Russ
“It only takes a few minutes to have a lasting impact on our quality of life here in Greene County,” Dobney said.