Summit Metro Parks Nature Center

AKRON, Ohio – Summit Metro Parks opened its first urban nature center on Thursday, cutting a ribbon with the many partners involved – from the city of Akron and Summit County to public and private foundations.

What would you like to know

  • Built in the former lake pumping station, the Summit Lake Nature Center is a two-story natural center with a million dollar view of the lake.
  • The center will feature interpretive exhibits, wildlife education, and urban gardening, while Metro Parks naturalists will focus on water recreation.
  • Since 2017, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, the Knight Foundation, Summit Metro Parks, the City of Akron and other groups have worked to reinvest in Summit Lake.
  • The lake was once bustling, with an amusement park, swimming and dancing, until the late 1960s when a highway cut the neighborhood off from the city.

The two-story nature center with a million dollar view of the lake is the start of a series of actions designed to bring Summit Lake residents the programming and services the neighborhood has long been denied, he said, and to connect them to the lake. as a pleasure.

“Metro Parks doesn’t just open the building,” he said. “They bring in naturalists and people to talk about astronomy and people to finger paint and people to bird watch. And all of this will now be offered in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in the state of Ohio. Right in the heart of it.

The center will offer interpretive exhibits, wildlife education and urban gardening. Metro Parks naturalists will also focus on different types of water recreation. The large open second floor is designed as a programming space.

“The activation of this pumping station, this nature center now, is the first in a series of things that are really going to start to happen for Summit Lake,” Kutuchief said.

As of 2017, as part of Reimagining the Civic Commons, the lake has been the focus of attention from the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, the Knight Foundation, Summit Metro Parks, the City of Akron and others. groups that have started a process of reinvestment in Summit Lake.

The lake was once a bustling destination, with an amusement park, swimming and dancing, and retail outlets. But over time the manufacturing polluted the waters, and in the late 1960s a highway cut the neighborhood off from the city. The investments disappeared and the Summit Lake neighborhood became the most deprived community in Akron.

Reimagining the Civic Commons is a partnership between the JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Akron was selected from among several cities that received $ 5 million to revitalize key public spaces. Part of this, the “Summit Lake Vision Plan” was developed based on feedback from residents.

At community meetings for the vision plan, residents often talked about how the neighborhood kids had nothing to do, even with the nearby baseball and football fields and the Reach community center, the chief said. of Summit Metro Parks’ community engagement, Demetrius Lambert-Falconer.

The Summit Metro Parks Nature Center was once a pumping station surrounded by barbed wire. (Spectrum News / Jennifer Conn)

“Even though all of these amenities are physically here, there are no programs in the neighborhood,” she said. This is because the amenities provided were paid for, usually by people who came from outside of Summit Lake.

Based on the feedback, in 2017 Metro Parks established a pop-up nature center at Summit Lake. The center became so popular that Metro Parks kept it going, said Lambert-Falconer, who runs the center

During this time, the pumping station was observed by a few groups interested in making it something useful for the community, but the amount of work and the costs were prohibitive.

The first floor of the building was made up entirely of metal pumps, with a giant pipe leading to the lake jetty, with the floor hollow below, Kutuchief said.

“It was a very complicated building and I think the only reason it wasn’t knocked down was because it would have been too expensive,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for Metro Parks, I don’t think this would have happened.”

Metro Parks Executive Director Lisa King (left) and Ohio Rep. Emelia Sykes at the Nature Center opening. (Spectrum News / Jennifer Conn)

Like the pop-up center, the new nature center’s offerings were designed based on feedback from Summit Lake residents, Lambert-Falconer said, keeping them “relevant and authentic.”

“I mean, everything from a children’s sewing class to the arts, to this program called ‘Club Nature’ which I am so proud of because I am creating my own little team of future naturalists,” he said. she declared.

Metro Parks modeled the Nature Club after a popular pop-up after-school program, in which children learned basic science concepts.

“It was important for me to make them understand that there is no need to go elsewhere,” she said. “You know, you have a precious place where you are. “

And the offerings at Summit Lake are only increasing.

On the North Shore, the Knight Foundation is investing $ 4 million in a $ 10 million project to create Summit Lake Park, with a trail all around the lake, about 2.25 miles, with concessions and shelter. The city of Akron has pledged $ 3 million for this project.

The north coast will be shaped to accommodate a dock and boathouse for a canoe and kayak sharing program, Kutuchief said.

One of the most exciting things about working on the lake is that it opens up all of the Cuyahoga Valley offerings to Summit Lake residents, Kutuchief said. Summit Metro Parks, the Towpath Trail, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park and beyond are all now in their backyards.

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