July 2010 Issue
A new state park, family games and special programs draw visitors to the Akron area’s green spaces.
Akron is well known for its proud history associated with the rubber industry. The early rubber companies in Summit County made fortunes for their founders and many of their associates, and a number of those entrepreneurs also understood the value of the outdoor world for its recreational opportunities and natural beauty. Some of the most successful became philanthropists who donated their personal properties or financed preserved land for all to enjoy.
This summer, the Akron area has a new state park, plus plenty of other places for family fun and physical activity at several well-known destinations, along with new park hiking trails and even a new carousel.
Wingfoot Lake State Park
“There is no other state park like Wingfoot Lake in the system,” says Bruce Carpenter, regional park manager, Ohio State Parks, Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “It is a unique area that northeast Ohioans and all Ohioans can enjoy. Nowhere else is there so much packed into such a small area.”
Wingfoot Lake State Park in Suffield Township, just outside of Akron, may not be as vast as some of Ohio’s state parks, but when it opens as Ohio’s 74th state park in mid- to late July, its 444-acre lake, 121 acres of public-use land, plus a preserved wildlife area with large buckeye and oak trees, will hardly feel crowded. And where else in Ohio can you look across a lake and see giant blimps taking off and landing?
The property, adjacent to the Goodyear hangar, home to the famous blimp fleet, had been owned by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for generations. The company reserved the area for recreational use by employees and retirees, but sold it to the state in 2009. Many area residents have happy memories of the park, and others have driven by it for years, always curious about the private property, according to Carpenter.
The Pine Tree Lodge, the largest of the six picnic shelters, can seat about 400 people. Visitors can also enjoy basketball, 18-hole miniature golf, bocce ball, sand volleyball, horseshoe pits, softball, disc golf and tennis. Sledding is available in winter. The local fishermen claim the lake is very for good for bass, blue gill and crappie. Visitors can rent pontoons, canoes, and rowboats. An off-leash dog park is also planned for the park.
Wingfoot Lake State Park will be open every day from dawn to 11 p.m. Like other state parks, there is no cost to visit, but some reservation fees for facilities and equipment are required. 614/265-6561, ohiostateparks.org
Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens
No handheld electronic devices, flashing lights or loud noises for Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens visitors during Family Fun Days. Staff members guide families in outdoor games and activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday through September and also Wednesdays through August.
Activities vary throughout the summer but include giant chess and checkers in the Great Garden, relay races, scavenger hunts, cornhole, parachutes, trail walks, bocce ball, ultimate Frisbee, badminton and giant bouncing balls. Visitors can also play clock golf, based on a game the estate’s original owners, the F.A. Seiberling family, created on the lawn near their 65-room mansion. Family Fun Days are included in a grounds and gardens admission.
On Aug. 22 and Sept. 19, during Family Friendly Days, visitors will meet characters portraying employees and friends of F.A. Seiberling, co-founder of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, and his wife, Gertrude, during a self-guided tour of the mansion. Guests also have the option of participating in outside recreational activities popular in the 1920s. Also, bring your best furry friend to Woof Walk Sundays, where you and your canine can both get some exercise. 888/836-5533, stanhywet.org
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Hike more than 125 miles of easy to difficult trails, or bike, canoe or watch birds throughout the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, along the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland. The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, open 24 hours within the national park, is accessible for people using wheelchairs, strollers or bicycles.
New to the park is EarthCaching. The self-guided activity is a cousin of geocaching, which involves finding containers hidden by fellow caching enthusiasts. With EarthCaching, you hunt for fascinating geological features using a portable Global Positioning System. The Park has EarthCaches for several areas, including Blue Hen Falls, Brandywine Falls, Ice Box Cave and others. Visit earthcache.org
for more information.
Limited camping is also available this year for distance hikers and bicyclists using the Towpath and backcountry trails. Five campsites are located near The Stanford House in Peninsula, through Oct. 31. 330/657-2752, dayinthevalley.com
Families are already looking forward to the Akron Zoo’s new Conservation Carousel, which opens Saturday, July 31. Craftsman from the Carousel Works in Mansfield hand-carved the 33 carousel animals from basswood, a sustainably harvested wood. Look for a Komodo dragon, tiger, ladybug, moose, dolphin and other animals from all seven continents, plus a handicapped-accessible chariot. Large maps near the exit of the $1.2 million carousel project pinpoint where the animals live in the world. In addition to zoo admission, rides cost $2.
“When we started to talk about the carousel, kids were excited, but the adults were even more excited,” says David Barnhardt, the zoo’s director of marketing and guest services. “The adults have all these wonderful nostalgic memories about carousels, and luckily, both kids and adults can ride ours.”
2010 is The Year of the Bat, celebrated by a local partnership of zoos, museums and nature centers. Visitors can check out the zoo’s bat exhibit in the Legends of the Wild permanent exhibit and also learn more about this mammal that Barnhardt says “always gets a bad rap but is very important to the environment.” 330/375-2550, akronzoo.org
Metro Parks Serving Summit County
Bats have taken over the Metro Parks as well. The Akron Pops Orchestra presents Pops ’N More: “Year of the Bat” at Firestone Metro Park on Thursday, July 8. After an hour concert and free dessert, Metro Park biologists will present a bat-netting demonstration and talk about the species of bats native to Ohio.
At the F. A. Seiberling Nature Realm, families can join naturalist Danusia Casteel to look for bats flying over the ponds, hunting for insects. The Year of the Bat program begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 24. In the newly renovated visitors center, kids can walk inside a hollow tree to find a friendly bat hanging upside down.
If bats aren’t really your thing, the Metro Parks also offer a wide variety of other recreational and nature-related opportunities. There’s a blue heron rookery located just a few minutes from the Nature Realm Park where the large birds perch high in their stick nests and can be seen from the road.
Park visitors may also swim in designated areas or rent a rowboat, canoe or pedal boat. Kayakers can access the Cuyahoga River through Gorge Metro Park, but only with a special-use permit.
The completion of Freedom Secondary Trail is eagerly anticipated, says Christine O’Neill, the park district’s marketing/communications specialist. The multi-purpose trail is being built in phases on an unused railroad corridor. The trail will connect the Portage Hike and Bike Trail in Kent, the Tallmadge Trail; the Towpath Trail through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Bike and Hike Trail in Munroe Falls. Completion is set for 2012. 330/867-5511, summitmetroparks.org