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.
In 1917, Goodyear creates the Goodyear Zeppelin Company as interests in the ships began to grow. Through the 1920s, the company mainly manufactured the zeppelins as a way to advertise their products. Then in the 1930s, Goodyear was awarded a contract to create two airships for military use. They built the USS Akron and the USS Macon.
In 1939, the company created the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation and began manufacturing F4U Corsair airplanes for the US Navy for use in World War II. At that same time, they also produced 104 airships for military use. By 1942, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation employed 35,000 workers.
In 1963, Goodyear Aircraft Corporation changed its name to the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation. During this time, they helped NASA develop heating and cooling systems for the Apollo spacecrafts, produced tires used on moon vehicles, and created flotation devices for spacecrafts landing in water.
Goodyear wasn't the only company in Akron looking to the sky for what to do next.
In 1934, B.F. Goodrich's Russell Colley designed a pressurized rubber suit for pilot Wiley Post. The suit allowed post to fly at higher altitudes than was previously possible, eventually reaching an altitude of 47,000 feet.
Colley's design was the prototype for the Navy Mark IV suit he would create in the 50s for use in high-altitude fighter jets. NASA would later modify those suits and use them on the Mercury spacecraft missions.
It's not far fetched to think that the role Akron played in reaching outer space inspired inspired a young Judith Resnik who graduated from Firestone High School, was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1978, and flew her first mission aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984.
Sadly, we lost Resnik when she joined the crew of the space shuttle Challenger on its ill-fated flight in 1986.
However, Akron continues to play a role in aerospace today. Not only does the University of Akron offer a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Systems Engineering, but in 2018 Dr. Jin Wei Kocsis received an Early Career Faculty Grant from NASA to develop blockchain technology that would enhance space communications and navigation in a way to would allow spacecraft to monitor debris in its path and make evasive maneuvers on its own.