A century of service and sharing: Scouts give back to the parks that give to them

Christy Counterman, Marketing Assistant & Janean Kazimir, Interpretive Naturalist

Girl Scout Tree Planting Festival on April 30, 1966 at Virginia Kendall Park

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have had a long history alongside Summit Metro Parks. Even before the park district was founded, Boy Scouts were camping at what is now Gorge Metro Park in a cabin they built dubbed “Old Slabsides.” Our mutual friendship has flourished ever since, officially beginning in the 1920s when the Girl Scouts hosted tree plantings at Sand Run and Goodyear Heights Metro Parks. Over the years, Scouts have recreated in our parks as well as volunteered time and talent to grow them into what they are today, thus inspiring new generations of caretakers for our “Green Islands.”

Girl Scouts plant pines at Sand Run Metro Park on May 4, 1929

The first record of Girl Scouts planting trees in the Metropolitan Park District was on May 4, 1929. About 250 girls planted over 2,000 trees in Sand Run Metro Park near the Old Portage Area. After a ceremony that began with songs, the park district’s Director-Secretary Harold S. Wagner addressed the group with a speech on “Trees and the Necessity of Reforestation.”

Virginia Kendall Park, once part of our district but now managed by Cuyahoga Valley National Park, was the site of the park district’s third annual Girl Scout Tree Planting Festival, held each year on the Saturday closest to Arbor Day. April 30, 1966 brought a steady downpour, but that didn’t deter almost 1,000 girls and their helpers representing 60 troops from planting close to 5,000 trees in less than two hours. One Brownie Scout commented “It was easier than last year. We didn’t have to water!”

Official planting events continued through 1985, with over 100,000 trees added to the landscape at Sand Run, Goodyear Heights, Furnace Run, Virginia Kendall, Hampton Hills, Firestone, Munroe Falls and Silver Creek Metro Parks. Boy Scouts have maintained some of the trees throughout the years, protecting them from invasive plants that would crowd them out.

Scouts try their hand at grilling in this 1969 snapshot from Goodyear Heights Metro Park

Parks provide opportunities to learn outdoor skills of all kinds. Beginning in 1928, day camps were held in the parks each summer. In 1952, a camp at Furnace Run Metro Park taught cooking, crafts, nature study, singing and more to girls that might not otherwise experience an adventure in the woods. The day camp tradition has been carried on in the parks by our naturalists in recent years, where kids of all ages can enjoy and learn about the great outdoors.

Starting at minute 16:06, see the Boy Scouts pictured here in action in this historic video on YouTube: http://bit.ly/SMPscouts.

Cooking food outdoors was a specialty of the Boy Scouts in the early days of the park district. According to a 1939 story in the Akron Beacon Journal, members of Troop 77 prepared picnic dinners for their parents over six campfires at Camp Waupaca, on land that later became part of O’Neil Woods Metro Park. Pictured on Sand Run Parkway circa 1930, these Scouts take a break from serving. Note the packing plant, now a wellness center and office complex on Merriman Road, in the background of this archival video. (Scouting footage begins at 16:06.)

Starting at minute 7:16, see the Boy Scouts pictured here in action in this historic video on YouTube: http://bit.ly/SMP1959.

In 1959, Boy Scouts gathered and planted nuts in this archival video under the direction of park staff, helping to reforest park areas for the future. (Footage begins at 7:16.) More recent nut plantings have resulted in thousands of small trees covering the landscape, most notably at the developing Valley View Area of Cascade Valley Metro Park.

Boy Scout Troop 210 has been serving refreshments since the first year of the Silver Creek Fall Family Outing in 1997. In 2019, visitors enjoyed 14 crates of apples, 25 giant bags of popcorn, almost 111 gallons of cider and more than 400 dozen cookies. Adam Lehman, a refreshment volunteer for more than 10 years, delights each time a visitor comes to the window for a drink and asks the price — when he says “free,” they can’t believe it! As a volunteer, Lehman is one of the Scouts who entertains the crowds as our mascot Cheeks the Chipmunk.

Troop 382 created this tracing turtle, larger than-life flowers and a giant xylophone for Liberty Park’s Nature Play area

Since 1988, 65 Eagle Scouts have earned their awards by completing projects in the parks, including construction of benches, picnic tables, trails, bat boxes and bluebird houses. Fernwood Loop Trail at F. A. Seiberling Nature Realm was created in 1979 by Life Scouts who first transplanted wildflowers and ferns along the proposed path and later constructed the trail. More recently, volunteers from Troop 382 headed up by Eagle Scout candidate Joshua Thompson built and installed sensory-friendly additions to the Liberty Park Nature Play area.

Countless hours of service and improvements, coupled with opportunities to learn about and conserve nature, contribute to the Scouting experience. Their projects have stood the test of time and serve to connect adult Scouts back to the parks and to their communities. Our parks are wholly richer as a result.

Thank you to the Tallmadge Historical Society, Girl Scouts of North East Ohio and Ron Lehman (Boy Scout for 54 years, Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster) for the use of their collections for our story.

For more stories like this, check out Green Islands Magazine, a bi-monthly publication from Summit Metro Parks. Summit County residents can sign up to receive the publication at home free of charge. #SMP100

Summit Metro Parks manages 14,000 acres, 16 parks and more than 150 miles of trails. Find more at www.summitmetroparks.org.