Field to Forest: Fall Hiking Spree highlights transformation

Lindsay Smith, Marketing & Public Relations Manager; Mike Greene, Education & Recreation Manager; Christy Counterman, Marketing Assistant

This year, the Fall Hiking Spree celebrates the rich history of the properties we proudly manage for your enjoyment and their successful return to nature. Take a journey with us as we explore the farms and fields that are now forests — and earn spree credit on the way!

Note: For general information on the Fall Hiking Spree, please visit hikingspree.summitmetroparks.org.

F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm | Seneca Trail

The property that would become the Nature Realm was once two separate farms. Once owned by the Laughlin family, the larger property was located near the top of Smith Road hill where the visitors center and arboretum are found today. Remnants of the smaller, lower farm can still be seen where Seneca Trail cuts through an old barn foundation.

Firestone Metro Park | Redwing Trail

From the late 1800s through 1940, the Farriss family operated a dairy farm in the area off South Main Street near the present-day sled hill and Coventry Oaks Lodge. Earlier, the Warner family (for whom Warner Road was named) also owned a dairy farm in that same area.

Furnace Run Metro Park | Rock Creek Trail

When the Brush family purchased the 2,100-acre farm of Everett Farnham, they continued the previous owner’s tradition of opening the land to Richfield neighbors for hiking and recreation. Although advised not to go through with a land donation to the park district, Dorothy Brush conducted a social experiment to determine whether the public could be trusted to properly care for the land. Following a successful two-year test period, she deeded 275 acres to the park district in 1929.

Goodyear Heights Metro Park | Piney Woods Trail

On December 25, 1929 the Akron Beacon Journal announced the previous evening’s donation of two tracts of land — one of which was farmland — to the Akron Metropolitan Park Board. In the early 1940s, the land became “farmed” once again with the installation of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company-sponsored Goodyear Victory Gardens, which turned into community gardens after World War II. Summit Metro Parks is proud to continue the tradition by once again offering community gardens at this park.

Hampton Hills Metro Park | Spring Hollow Trail

E. Reginald Adam, a local Saalfield Publishing executive, and his wife Rhea donated 162 acres of their West Bath Road farm to the park district in the late 1960s. After Mr. Adam’s death, Mrs. Adam then gave the rest of the property to the park district. Under an agreement with the Northampton Historical Society, the house was opened in 1970 as a history museum. While the house is no longer standing, Hampton Hills Metro Park remains a popular spot for visitors who enjoy the beautiful views and challenging hiking terrain.

Liberty Park | Bluebird Trail

Agricultural census sheets from the 1800s shed light on the farmers who once thrived near the Ledges Area at Liberty Park. Area farmers often kept livestock, made dairy products and cultivated corn, oats and potatoes. The land that once produced valuable crops is now home to countless rare and endangered species.

Munroe Falls Metro Park | Meadow Trail

Meadow Trail travels along property that once was the Summit County Home, an expansive facility that provided housing and services to disadvantaged residents. Spread over 440 acres overlooking the Village of Munroe Falls, the Summit County Home farm produced meats, vegetables, fruits and dairy foods for its own use.

O’Neil Woods Metro Park | Deer Run Trail

The Akron Beacon Journal on June 5, 1969 reported: “Another 240 acres of field and forest has been added to the growing area that will be kept in its natural state in the Cuyahoga Valley of Akron. Heirs of the late William O’Neil, founder of the General Tire and Rubber Co., have made the O’Neil farm in Bath Twp. available to the Metropolitan Park District on a dollar-a-year lease basis.” A later donation included meadows long uncultivated, but the majority of the farm was “rugged woodland.”

Silver Creek Metro Park | Chippewa Trail

Originating in the 1800s, Harter Brothers Milk Company was sold to the company that became Akron Pure Milk, where Fred Harter was Sales Manager. In 1934, Fred left to start Harter Bros. — Belle Isle Farm with brothers Bert and Harry. Bert sold the land to the park district in 1966. As seen on the cover of this issue, the beautifully restored Harter family barn can still be viewed today along Chippewa Trail.

Springfield Bog Metro Park | Prairie Trail

The story of Springfield Bog Metro Park might best be referred to as “Farm to Prairie” — though there are also forested areas within this park. The Young family raised dairy cows and farmed this land for over 100 years. They grew crops like corn, wheat, oats and grass for hay, while natural bogs on the property produced huckleberries. In the early 1900s, a railroad spur was built to the Youngs’ farm to deliver city dwellers to the farm for berry picking. Sitting on the continental divide, the land has since been returned to its natural prairie habitat by the park district.

Wood Hollow Metro Park | Downy Loop Trail

The area that became Wood Hollow Metro Park was once divided into a number of parcels owned by different farmers. The Fillius farm, dating back to the mid-1800s, was located in the western portion of the present-day Wood Hollow. The farm had horses, milk cows, sheep and swine. A silo foundation may be visible from the trail in the autumn and winter.

Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

The Ohio & Erie Canal features in Clinton are part of a National Register of Historic Places district because of their importance in canal history, as well as in the development of both Ohio and the United States as a whole. In the early 1800s, it was typical for residents along the Ohio & Erie Canal to have farms to sustain their families. For example, lockkeeper Nicholas Smith sold farmed goods at Lock 3 to travelers and workers on the canal.

Summit Metro Parks is grateful to have cared for parkland in Summit County for nearly 100 years. We conserve and sustainably manage clean and safe parks for your enjoyment and look forward to the next century of preserving our natural and cultural resources. To learn more about the Fall Hiking Spree, visit hikingspree.summitmetroparks.org. Happy hiking!

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.

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