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Fitz Center for Leadership in Community

Five Oaks Park Revitalization

By Allison Saracina

As a member of the Dayton Civic Scholars 2019 cohort, I have been a part of a three year scholarship program focused on getting students out into the community to learn about assets and consensus building. Starting in August of 2017, we began working on our capstone project with the direction of Don Vermillion, looking at neighborhoods and learning about their assets and challenges to get a feel for the types of projects we might like to engage in. We looked for communities with a diverse makeup, as we originally wanted to work with refugees. We decided on Five Oaks because they had worked with a UD class in 2012 on a neighborhood improvement plan that included the revitalization of their park. The neighborhood has many assets including DECA Prep elementary school, located adjacent to their park, a vibrant and active neighborhood association, and a commitment to engaging neighbors through Little Libraries, among others. With the help of Dr. Hunter Phillips Goodman and Bill Marvin, we have been able to continue our project.

Mr. Marvin, the president of the neighborhood association, and Philosophy professor here at UD, has been a great connector and leader, as we work towards finishing this project. With his guidance, we have been able to maintain constant communication with the neighborhood to ensure that their needs are met with our park revitalization. Once we decided on the Five Oaks neighborhood, we noticed that they had previously mentioned a need to bring more foot traffic to the park and a need to revitalize this important asset to their community. In going to association meetings and meeting with DECA Prep representatives, we came to the conclusion that we hoped to accomplish four things: paint a historically descriptive mural on the standing pavilion, install sturdy soccer goals, install more little libraries around the park, and build a walking path.

Though these are ambitious goals, we split into four teams and got to work in August of 2018. We began by reaching out to local partners and maintaining constant communication with them to cultivate a strong relationship. Through some ups and downs and lessons on perseverance, we have sustained many strong partners in the process. Since the beginning of this school year, the soccer goal team was able to utilize a neighborhood grant to purchase soccer goals, the Little Library team, in conjunction with UD’s maker’s club, constructed 3 Little Libraries, the mural team, working with Brittini Long of the HAALO project and a graphic design student, designed and began painting a mural, and the walking path team has written and received a grant to put towards implementing a path.

Our goal with each of these projects was to revitalize a space that could be utilized by the Five Oaks Neighborhood, DECA Prep, and any Dayton resident in need of a way to get outside. The mural incorporates not only Dayton, but Five Oaks history and will be a colorful and inviting way to engage students and prevent graffiti. The soccer goals aim to cultivate activity among students and community members, and the little libraries will continue the neighborhood’s love of reading and sparking creativity. The goal of the walking path will be to connect the existing exercise equipment and create a space for many types of activity.

Without these partnerships, we would be nowhere near where we are today, and we celebrate the hard work of our community as we finish these projects. We are hosting a Community Volunteer Day on April 13th from 12-4pm in the park to paint the mural and install the Little Libraries and soccer goals, all volunteers are welcome.

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