Centennial spotlight: Harold S. Wagner

Summit Metro Parks
2 min readFeb 18, 2021


Megan Shaeffer, PhD, cultural resource coordinator

Wagner (left) consults on park plans for Firestone Metro Park in August 1941.

Even before he was hired as the first director-secretary of Akron Metropolitan Park District (AMPD, which was the original name for Summit Metro Parks), Harold Wagner was heavily involved with the fledgling park district, working to create a swath of protected green space across Summit County.

He officially became director-secretary in 1926 and remained in that position until 1958. During his tenure, much of what we know as our current park system was acquired and shaped. Some of Wagner’s contributions include:

  • The creation of Sand Run Parkway from 1929 to 1930
  • Development of the first nature trails starting in the late 1920s, with the first official guided hike occurring in Sand Run on September 24, 1929
  • The first “nature school” out of Old Portage Shelter in the late 1920s and early 1930s
  • Expansion of the park district to include Sand Run, Firestone, Furnace Run, Goodyear Heights and Gorge Metro Parks, as well as Virginia Kendall (which would later become part of Cuyahoga Valley National Park)
Wagner curated an extensive collection of parks-related cartoons, including many pen and ink master artboards from the original cartoonists.

Apart from his work with AMPD, Wagner was well-known nationally as a pioneer in park planning and management. He was appointed to and served as secretary for the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, and Monuments from 1953 to 1959. This board was created to advise and recommend policies to the Department of the Interior on matters relating to the national parks and their historic and archaeological resources. He also served as president of the National Conference on State Parks and president of the American Park Executive Institute.

Wagner was a visionary leader who launched our early park district into stability, and visitors continue to enjoy his legacy today!

Centennial Spotlights highlight the people who have helped make Summit Metro Parks what it is today. For more great 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

Summit Metro Parks manages 15,000 acres, 16 parks, three nature centers and more than 150 miles of trails. Find more at www.summitmetroparks.org.