Cleveland June 06, 2019
These Photos Show How Ohio’s Oldest Park System Changed Greater Cleveland For The Better
Camaraderie is the lifeblood of small communities. While Cleveland is a large city, it maintains a small-town feel. This is, in part, thanks to aspects of the city’s identity that keep us closely connected. The Cleveland Metroparks is a particular source of pride for the Northeast Ohio community, as this park system is one of the most unique (and the oldest) in the state. With more than 23,000 acres, hundreds of miles of trails, and over a hundred years of history, our Emerald Necklace has transformed our community in a remarkable way. These retro photos demonstrate just how the parks have evolved to become the glue that connects the community:
1. Mammoth Ecology Project at Sunset Pong, 1971
North Chagrin has entertained visitors for decades. Since the 1920s, just a handful of years after the park district was established, North Chagrin Reservation has offered a revitalizing mix of outdoor activity and nature. The earliest initiatives of the park district focused on acquiring land for their parks, and this park was one of the earliest acquired by the Metroparks. It hosted camps in its earliest years, both for the Cleveland Heights Kiwanis Club and the YMCA. The River Road Camp became a coed endeavor in 1957, and campers adored outdoor discovery and a focus on fitness. The camp closed in 1979, but many still cherish memories from its days of operation.
2. Making memories at Buzzard's Roost, 1969
Surely you’ve noticed the prevalence of buzzards in local culture. Your parents may have even taken you to Buzzard’s Roost during your youth, but they might not have shared the area’s history with you. The annual tradition of watching buzzards return dates back to the Great Hinckley Hunt of 1818. At the time, a "wolves" killed hundreds of livestock in Medina County. Some 600 men gathered on Christmas Eve, formed a giant circle, and encroached on the rugged landscape of Hinckley with guns and pitchforks. An impressive $15 was paid for every slain wolf… though many of these creatures were actually coyotes. Following the hunt, bears, deer, racoons, and turkeys littered the landscape. When the snow melted, buzzards enjoyed a feast like no other. Legend maintains that they return to Hinckley year after year hoping for another smorgasbord.
3. A quiet day on Hinckley Lake, date unknown
The naturally-gorgeous 90 acre Hinckley Lake is adored by locals as a coveted summertime destination, and many travel to visit it despite its distance from the other Metroparks. The lake is characterized by its impressive dam, a structure that was built in 1926 to block water from the Rocky River. Even with the dam limiting water, the deepest part of the lake is around 16 feet. Today, boaters, kayakers, and fishermen adore the adventure offered by the lake.
4. Recycling efforts at Brecksville Reservation, 1972
As the largest of the Cleveland Metroparks and the largest urban park in the state, Brecksville Reservation offers many enticing surprises. Not only does this park feature a variety of ecosystems, but it also includes seven distinct gorges. In the northernmost section of the park, Chippewa Creek forms a charming little gorge characterized by a waterfall. The diversity of this park has offered locals, particularly youth, an endless opportunity to study and understand the environment.
5. Tobogganing at Mill Stream Run Reservation, 1974
For more than 50 years, locals have headed to Strongsville for epic wintertime adventure. The toboggan chutes at Mill Stream Run Reservation opened in 1967, and they were the first refrigerated chute system
anywhere. Winter Funland, as the park was known, eventually came to be known as The Chalet, but one thing hasn’t changed: they continue to operate the only refrigerated toboggan chute in the state. It is said that more than 20,000 people visit this site each year, meaning many locals have made cherished memories here.
6. Picnicking at North Chagrin Reservation, 1973
The former property of Feargus B. Squire (whose
still graces the landscape) makes up the majority of North Chagrin Reservation. When its land was acquired,
began studying its historic beech-maple forest, and he introduced locals to his beloved landscape via weekend wildflower walks. When the reservation underwent growth in the 1960s, plans for a nature education center were drawn up. While it was introduced in 1976, it seems the community was already aware of what a gem this park was. It was, and continues to be, a cherished location for photo taking and picnicking.
7. Fun in the sun at Huntington Beach, 1969
Huntington Reservation joined the Cleveland Metroparks in 1925, but its history is much more deeply rooted. Its landscape contains remnants of an interurban train system that started in 1893—an old-school form of transportation that allowed farmers easy access to the city. Just about a century prior to this, indigenous peoples cherished the land of Huntington Reservation as a hunting site. Ever since its acquisition by the Metroparks, sun worshippers have introduced a new crowd to this well-trafficked landscape.
8. Wintertime family fun, 1967
Perhaps the most incredible features of the Cleveland Metroparks is one of its most mundane natural features—its sledding hills! Some fan favorites include the hills at Old River Farm Reserved Picnic Area in North Chagrin Reservation, Kelley Picnic Area at Euclid Creek Reservation, and Paw Paw Picnic Area in Mill Stream Run Reservation. Locals have adored sledding and snowman building since the parks were established—a tradition that continues through winters of the modern age.
The Cleveland Metroparks have a rich history that spans more than a century. Did any of these photos take you back to your childhood? Share your favorite childhood memories of the Metroparks in the comments!
If these photos brought back memories, you’ll adore
this collection of then and now photos of Cleveland.