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 the early days, many of the settlers in Akron moved to the area from Connecticut, including Akron's founder, Simon Perkins.
Perkins, a brigadier-general during the War of 1812, was a member of the Ohio Board of Canal Commissioners. Perkins noticed the potential for a city to spring up around the highest point on the canal. He began surveying the land to planning the layout of a city he would name Akron from the Greek work “ἄκρον” meaning high point.
General Perkins son, known as “Colonel" Perkins would grow to be farmer in Akron. He built a large stone house – which still stands today, and is operated by the Akron-Summit Historical Society – and raised sheep on the land in an area which would come to be known as Mutton Hill.
The younger Perkins hired John Brown to tend to the sheep. Brown was known as a staunch abolitionist. Later, in 1859, Brown would lead his raid on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia in an effort to initiate an armed slave revolt.
Sojourner Truth came to town in 1851 to speak at the Women's Rights Convention at Akron's Universalist Church. She delivered her famous “Ain't I a Woman?” speech, widely regarded as of the most important abolitionist and women’s rights speeches in American history.
John R Buchtel was a farmer and businessman in Akron, helping to grow the Buckeye Mower and Reaper Company and the Akron Iron Company into successful businesses. However, Buchtel is best known for donating $31,000 in 1867 to help establish Buchtel College.
Gertrude Seiberling had a deep love of art and music. In 1887, she became a charter member of the group that would become the Tuesday Musical Club – organized to help build an appreciation for music in Akron. She performed at the White House for President William Howard Taft and she helped supplement her family's income by teaching singing lessons.
When her husband's business venture, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, become profitable she began attending Buchtel College to study architecture, gardening, and interior design. She wanted to be able to assist in building the family's new home – a 65 room Tudor-style mansion they would call, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens – when construction began in 1912.
Charles Landon Knight bought the Akron Beacon Journal Newspaper in 1903. In 1933, his son, John Shively inherited the paper. He and his brother, James Landon, built the business into the largest newspaper chain in the country at the time - Knight Ridder.
In 1950 the brothers founded the John S and James L Knight Foundation – an organization that supports journalism, the arts, and the success of the cities where the brothers once published papers.