Centennial Spotlight: Bertalan “Bert” Szabo

First Naturalist for the Akron Metropolitan Park District

Mike Greene, Education & Recreation Manager

Bert Szabo began his career with the Akron Metropolitan Park District in 1957.

While working as the area manager for Goodyear Heights Metro Park, early on he started presenting programs for schools, churches and other organizations before being appointed as the park district’s first chief naturalist in 1963. Among his many accomplishments at the park district, Szabo:

  • helped launch the Green Islands newsletter, with its accompanying Woodland Trails nature page
  • helped name and create icons for trails throughout the park district
  • helped initiate the Fall Hiking Spree
  • built both indoor and outdoor exhibits for the park district’s first nature center (today known as the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm Visitors Center)
  • designed the unique millstone portal sign at Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park
  • presented special “School of the Woods” programs designed for leaders of youth groups to teach them best practices for leading nature study and field trips

As an early member and eventual president of the first professional organization for interpreters of nature and history, Szabo helped shape how naturalists connect people to the parks. Many of the methods used by Szabo and naturalists he hired to work with him through his nearly three decades as chief naturalist are still being used today, with some modifications.

First started in the ’60s, Bert leads one of his popular history hikes at Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park. September 1986

Following his retirement in 1991, Szabo has become one of the park district’s most committed volunteers, contributing more than 7,000 service hours to date. In honor of the park district’s first naturalist, Summit Metro Parks celebrates his December 4 birthday each year by declaring the day “Bert Szabo Day,” and for the month of December, temporarily renaming Sand Run Parkway as “Bert Szabo Parkway.” Szabo turned 100 on December 4, 2020, roughly a year before the park district’s 100th birthday.

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.

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