May 7 2019

100 Years of Hills & Dales

Parks and conservation efforts maintain this natural gem enjoyed by generations of locals.

A visit to Hills & Dales Park was an exciting experience for Daytonians when it opened a century ago. With its carefully designed meadows, water and woods, the park was meant to recreate the perfection found in nature and provide a place for city dwellers to enjoy beautiful scenery.

Now, Five Rivers’ parks and conservation staff continue to maintain this greenway treasure for Daytonians’ enjoyment. A park master plan has been developed to guide its future, and the plan includes nods to the park’s past.

That Hills & Dales legacy is thanks to John Patterson, founder of the National Cash Register Company who believed that education and outdoor exercise are the pillars of good health. In the early 1900s, Patterson owned hundreds of acres south of Dayton and wanted the community to benefit from the land. He hired John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to work their magic on the natural terrain. In the park’s early days, visitors strolled walking paths on foot or horse. They picked blackberries, wild strawberries, May apples, walnuts and hickory nuts and ate them on the grounds. They lingered near wading pools and picnicked in Adirondack camps.

However, by the early 1930s, the park land started to be chipped away. Only a few decades later, the original character of what remained had been impacted by years of vegetation growth. Almost 90 percent of the natural areas were overgrown with Amur honeysuckle.

A group of concerned citizens named, Friends of Hills & Dales Park, started a cleanup effort in the late 1980s and continued their work well into the 1990s. Five Rivers MetroParks assumed operations and maintenance in 1999.

After years of construction and master planning, $4 million in improvements were unveiled to park goers in 2009, including new Adirondack-style shelters, a boardwalk and playgrounds. Many of the improvements also helped habitat for wildlife, including a restored pond and extensive honeysuckle removal. The park now feels like a ramble through a thickly wooded upstate New York forest, and Hills & Dales is one of Five Rivers MetroParks’ most popular destinations.

“John Patterson’s beliefs about the benefits of nature have been long proven,” said Debby McKee, Five Rivers MetroParks conservation supervisor. “Hill & Dales is once again a prime spot for connecting to nature and rejuvenating your inner child.”


Friday, June 28 — 5 to 8 PM
Michael Solomon Pavilion at Community Golf Club, 2917 Berkley St.

Celebrate the rich history of Hills & Dales MetroPark. Learn about the park’s beginnings, how it became publicly owned land, how it has developed during the past 100 years, and how the park is currently managed and how Five Rivers MetroParks plans to care for it in the future.

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