Reinventing the City of Invention

When a team of storytellers took to the streets of Dayton last summer, talking to strangers in search of stories of reinvention, they weren’t sure what would emerge.

Would they stumble upon personal stories that could, taken together, tell a story of an entire region’s metamorphosis? Could their approach – walking and interviewing their way through downtown and four Dayton neighborhoods – answer the question that propelled them to the streets: What happens when a city of invention must reinvent itself?

One of team’s leaders, Julia Reichert, believes it did. Common threads emerged among the diverse stories: doubt, courage, faith, hope, rebuilding.

“We are a resilient place,” she says. “Doing this work, I felt that even more.”

"Reinvention Stories" is a transmedia storytelling project led by WYSO and the award-winning filmmaking duo of Reichert and Steven Bognar. Radio stories air regularly on WYSO, accompanied by multimedia features at wyso.org. The centerpiece of the reinvention project is an interactive documentary – reinventionstories.org – created by the team and the Boston online firm Zeega.

The project was born when WYSO general manager Neenah Ellis partnered with Reichert and Bognar to win a grant from the Association of Independents in Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting designed to allow radio stations to go into the streets to tell multi-media stories of their communities.

WYSO was one of 10 stations to win the grant, and the only one to bring in filmmakers. It will continue through the next year thanks to an $80,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Photographs from the project will be on display this summer at the Dayton Art Institute.

Reichert and Bognar are award-winning documentarians, known for feature length films such as “Lion in the House” and “The Last Truck,” so their foray into online storytelling was a reinvention of its own.

The site is anchored by films featuring seven Dayton residents who share their journey of reinvention. Their stories are told in three acts: Who were you when the bottom fell out? What happened? Who did you become?

“They are so honest,” Reichert said. “That’s what I love about everyone who is in it.”

Users can also navigate down a Dayton street, clicking on short films that appear in bubbles along the road to see a variety of Dayton events that capture the spirit of the city, such as a vibrant performance of the Dayton Men’s Choir to the diverse World Soccer Games, a tournament of teams representing Dayton’s many immigrant communities.

Users can answer questions about the city: where they see signs of life, what events they look forward to, what gives them hope. Their answers appear instantly on the Twitter feed, @ReinventDayton.

“With these questions, we want to be a positive force for Dayton,” Reichert says.

But for as much as the filmmakers try to influence how visitors to the website will use it, each person experiences it in a different way.

“The Internet requires a lot of letting go,” says Bognar.

By Tracy Staley

50 Years of Conservation, Education and Natural Beauty

Five Rivers MetroParks is a destination for families and individuals seeking natural experiences, whether through outdoor adventure, relaxing gardens, wildlife interactions or educational programs. This year, the parks celebrate their growth from just a few parks to 25 facilities protecting 15,500 acres of natural beauty in the Dayton area.

Save Open Space

In 1959, landscape architect and land planner Harold R. Freiheit led a study on the effects of urban sprawl and the dwindling open space in Montgomery and Greene counties. His committee found that without a preservation plan, there would be little open space left in the Dayton Metropolitan area; existing parks would not be adequate to meet the needs of the growing community.

Glenn Thompson, editor of the former Dayton Journal-Herald, and Jean V. Woodhull, member of the Garden Club of Dayton, formed the Save Open Space Committee. This group received approval for the park district’s formation on April 8, 1963, set with the purpose “to protect natural areas, parks and river corridors, and to promote the conservation and use of these lands and waterways for the ongoing benefit of the people in the region.”

Today, There Are

25 park facilities, including 18 major MetroPark locations. Five Rivers MetroParks also maintains areas preserved as natural habitat. The park district sets an industry-leading standard of 90 percent natural areas to 10 percent development.

Visitors to the MetroParks will find nearly 80 miles of hiking trails, 8.5 miles of mountain bike trail, about 25 miles of equestrian trails, and more than 70 miles of bike trails. This represents a portion of the region’s 330-mile bikeway network – the largest in the country.

Hidden Nature

To celebrate its golden anniversary, Five Rivers MetroParks launched a district-wide celebration. Local artists donated some of their nature-inspired works to share with the community. Their creations were infused with quick-response codes and telephone extensions. When scanned, the QR codes take the user to a video link revealing “hidden” information about the parks. Similarly, the extensions share a voice-recorded message about the parks.

In addition to the art, the park district also is calling out some of its own hidden treasures for visitors to find. From the metroparks.org/history website, users can view all “50 Things to See and Do” that outlines the “hidden nature” in the park and gives locations and directions to find the items. Park patrons are challenged to find all 50 items.

Preservation Efforts

Five Rivers MetroParks staff and volunteers dug through filing cabinets, boxes, desk drawers and closets in search of historical elements harkening back to the early days of the park district. A selection of park relics are being preserved, cataloged and stored for future generations to enjoy with the help of the Wright State University Special Collections and Archives division.

Plan a trip to a Five Rivers MetroParks location using metroparks.org. From this site, visitors can find amenities, details on permits for camping and shelter reservations, register for educational programs, and read the complete history of the MetroParks.

By Natasha Baker