The Akron Metropolitan Park District – now named Summit Metro Parks – was established in December 1921. The park's early board of commissioners – which included tire baron Frank A. Seiberling – hired the well-known landscape architect brothers, John and Fredrick Olmsted, to plan the new parks.
In 1926 Harold S. Wagner was named the first Director-Secretary of the new parks system. In Wagner's first five years leading the city's parks, he built the system up to 1,600 acres. Some of those early parks included the Gorge, Sand Run, and Furnace Run.
By the time Wagner retired in 1958, the park system had grown to 3,760 acres and was drawing out more than 800,000 people each year.
Today if you enjoy the 40,000 daffodils that bloom along the Wagner Daffodil Trail, you owe a debt of gratitude to Wagner and his wife, who planted the first bulbs in the 1930s.
The 60s and 70s saw great growth for the park system. The reservations increased to over 6,000 acres and included the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm and Cascade Valley, among others. It was also during this time that the Fall Hiking Spree was first introduced – an event that is wildly popular to this day.
Now, Executive Director Lisa King manages the 14,300 acre-park system with over 125 miles of trails – including more than 22 miles of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. With an average of 5 million visits each year, the Summit Metro Parks continue to grow and connect visitors with the great outdoors.
The Summit Metro Parks isn't Akron's only park system. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park runs through Akron as well.
When the Olmsted brothers first surveyed the area for Akron's new park system, they reported the recreational potential of the Cuyahoga Valley. About 40 years later that potential was threatened by development. John R Daily - then Director-Secretary of the Summit Metro Parks - helped acquire the land to save it from Akron's sprawl.
In 1974 President Gerald Ford advanced that protection by signing the bill that established the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. For the next 30 years, more land was purchased for the new park, historic structures were restored, and activities for public enjoyment were planned – all tirelessly championed by Congressman Ralph Regula. In the year 2000, Regula helped to change the park's name to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Today the park protects 33,000 acres of land and welcomes about 2.2 million visitors annually, making it one of the most visited National Parks. The park offers hiking, biking, wildlife watching, canoeing, and even a scenic railroad ride.
City life, or the great outdoors – the choice is yours in Akron.
As we've seen, since the city's earliest days, innovative Akronites have created new items, made improvements, or developed new processes that changed the way the world did business.
Sometimes it's playfulness, entertainment, and hobbies that can change the world and inspire new industries.
For years, toys were all handmade, making them available only to the children of wealthy families. Samuel C. Dyke invented machinery which automated his factory. In 1884, they began to mass produce marbles making them the first toy that was largely affordable by everyone, and launching the modern toy industry.
Russian immigrant, Dietrich Gustav Rempel, studied sculpture in college. In 1946, he opened the Rempel Manufacturing toy company in Akron. They made a line of rubber toys produced from clay molds Rempel carved and a process he patented called “Roto-Cast.” Among the toys they produced was a line of rubber animals, one of which was a rubber duck. Rempel toys were so popular sold in countries all over the world.
In the 1920s, Harry C. Williams of Kenmore, was a projectionist at a movie theater. He got the idea to take a denim-like material and paint it with a silver paint – making it more reflective – and use it as a screen. Just like that, the famous “silver screen” was born. By the 1940s, Williams had opened a factory and was selling his screens to movie houses all over the country.
In 1890, the Pflueger Supreme fishing reel was manufactured here in Akron. Pflueger went on to produce models called Summit, Akron, and Norka and became one of the best known brands in the country.
Pflueger wasn't the only Akron angler to put their innovation to work and become a major player in the bait and tackle industry. Fred Arborgast worked at Goodyear and made fishing lures as a hobby. By 1930, his lures were so popular that he began producing the lures full time. Arborgast became known for their Tin Liz, Hawaiian Wigglers, and Jitterbug lures. Both Pflueger's and Arborgast's models are favorites among vintage bait and tackle collectors.
In the early 2000s, husband and wife team Jamie Stillman and Julie Robbins began making guitar effects pedals in their basement. When someone noticed The Black Keys using one of the pedals, the side-gig began to grow. Now, EarthQuaker Devices ships about 1000 pedals per week all to retailers all over the world.
In 2017, Akron's mayor, Dan Horrigan, announced the creation of BOUNCE, a hub for Akron’s innovative residents. BOUNCE is bringing together the city's entrepreneurs and students with investors and corporate executives through programming and initiatives to keep Akron's history of innovation moving into the future.