Year in Review: Metro Parks Moments of 2019
Another year is in the books, and it’s been a busy and exciting one here at Summit Metro Parks. In no particular order, here’s a look at some of the most significant SMP stories of 2019.
Crews began restoration work at the Valley View barn. This historic structure at the Valley View Area of Cascade Valley Metro Park in Akron was once a golf course clubhouse and prior to that, a family dairy barn. To convert it into a rentable meeting and event space, construction crews began work over the summer, first removing the building’s upper two floors to expose beautiful beam work. Summit Metro Parks received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation towards this project. We expect to make portions of Valley View open to the public in 2020.
SMP opened a new disc golf course at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton. The 18-hole course is a first for the park district and utilizes the existing cross country course at the park. Designed by a nationally renowned disc golf course architect, the new facility has received rave reviews since opening in June.
SMP conservation staff continued to protect rare and endangered species. In 2019 alone, Summit Metro Parks biologists past and present successfully reestablished spotted salamanders at Munroe Falls Metro Park, protected endangered bats at Liberty Park and published research on a hybrid bird species discovered at Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park.
SMP hosted a free group wedding event for 30 couples. Coordinated with Summit County Probate Court, the event at Goodyear Heights Metro Park was open to all Summit County residents, offering an equal opportunity to all couples who wished to get married or renew their vows in a stunning park setting. The unique event was recognized with a first place Award of Excellence from the Ohio Parks & Recreation Association.
The Akron Marathon returned to Summit Metro Parks. For the first time in several years, Akron Marathon runners once again traversed SMP during the race. Runners enjoyed scenic views from the Towpath Trail beginning at the Wilbeth Road trailhead, continuing over the floating boardwalk and through Summit Lake for Miles 22–23 of this year’s event.
Together with area partners, SMP celebrated 50 years of Cuyahoga River renewal. Thanks to the hard work of many, water quality has improved significantly since the infamous 1969 fire and the river was even designated as an official water trail in 2019. Thousands “Hiked the Cuyahoga” during this year’s Fall Hiking Spree!
SMP conservation staff completed a 15-year restoration project at Pond Brook in Liberty Park (Twinsburg). As far back as the late 1800s, Pond Brook had been ditched, dredged and devoid of life. When SMP acquired the property in 1999, we embarked on one of the largest stream restorations in state history. With grant funding, park staff oversaw restoration of several hundred acres of riparian wetlands, creating habitat and fish communities in over five miles of stream corridor.
Summit Metro Parks staff received significant honors. SMP Chief of Conservation Mike Johnson received the 2019 Jack Hanna Resource Conservation Award from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association. This prestigious statewide award is presented to an OPRA member who has dedicated his or her career to the conservation of natural resources, both in their career in parks and recreation and in other areas.
Also in 2019, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History named Summit Metro Parks Education & Recreation Manager Mike Greene its Conservation Educator of the Year. The prestigious award recognizes lifelong achievements to the field of conservation education among Northeast Ohio’s informal educators, classroom teachers or naturalists.
SMP continued to expand its reach at Summit Lake. With a new, permanent nature center under construction with the help of Knight Foundation funding and expected to open in 2020, Summit Metro Parks continued to increase its educational and recreational offerings, including water-based programming on the lake. Meanwhile, the award-winning Summit Lake Nature Club is helping kids connect to nature in new ways.
SMP visitors and volunteers continued to be the heart of the park district. With more than 5 million visits every year, we couldn’t do what we do each year without each and every one of YOU! You help us achieve our mission to conserve, sustainably manage and value natural resources for the health and enjoyment of our community, and inspire people to connect with nature through clean and safe parks. We look forward to continuing that legacy with you in 2020!