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Foster Brown - Historical Interpreter
Foster Brown has been a historical interpreter/naturalist with Cleveland Metroparks since 1996. Foster has produced several award-winning children’s music albums revealing the joys of nature, and songs and stories of Cleveland Metroparks and the Ohio & Erie Canal days in early Ohio. Foster’s recordings are available at Cleveland Metroparks Nature Shops at CanalWay Center, North Chagrin Nature Center, Rocky River Nature Center, and Watershed Stewardship Center, as well as available
Manakiki Golf Course: An Elegant Property for Generations
Cleveland Metroparks has a gift for preserving and managing some of the most beautiful landscapes in northeast Ohio. Many of them were once prominent industrialist estates (gentleman’s farms) of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Huntington Reservation (John Huntington), North Chagrin Reservation (Feargus B. Squire), and Hinckley Reservation (John F. Johnson), and others helped comprise some of Cleveland Metroparks finest park and recreation lands. Manakiki Golf Course, another millionare’s estate (Howard ...
Your Parks, Your Stories + Cleveland Historical
There is nothing more satisfying than to finally start seeing the fruit of a project that took root a couple of years ago. In 2014, Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland State University began collaborating on an oral history project called Your Parks, Your Stories . The idea was planted by several of my colleagues who were inspired by NPRs’ “Story Corps.” After hearing a few episodes, I knew what I had to do. Call it fate or luck; a brochure came across my desk promoting training on collecti...
A Natural Mystery Solved
One of the greatest privileges I have had being a Cleveland Metroparks employee is becoming intimately acquainted with many of the reservations. Through leading hikes, attending educational in-services, special projects or spending personal time, each reservation has revealed its own stand-alone personality. Each reservation offers a hallmark of uniqueness determined by the river that cuts through it; the species of plants, trees, mammals and birds found there; or the striking topography and histo...
Precious Places for Generations
Do you have a site in Cleveland Metroparks that is your go-to spot to help you unwind, or you find as a safe place to reminisce about your childhood or family memories? Although I didn’t grow up in Ohio, as an employee of Cleveland Metroparks I find great joy in listening to your passionate and deep-rooted connections to the place we call the Emerald Necklace. I have heard stories of family traditions of morning breakfasts at picnic shelters, creek and river walks, drives through the parkway...
Collaborating to Catch Awesome Stories
As we wind up the Your Parks, Your Stories oral history project in August, I can truly say this has been one of the most awesome projects I have been associated with since my employment with Cleveland Metroparks in 1996. The passion that patrons have for Cleveland Metroparks is astonishing. The passing of the levy last fall by over 70% was a great encouragement and the interviews put voice to their approval and confidence in a well-run park system for nearly 100 years. Judy MacKeigan (park historian) an...
Trees: A Glorious Sign of Life
As a fledgling park system, seeking to surround the once 6 th largest city in the nation, it is no wonder that trees would be at the top of Cleveland Metropolitan Park District’s project list in its early years. After all, if we were to live up to our future name, Emerald Necklace, we needed to reforest the Greater Cleveland area along its riparian corridors, reclaimed lands and spotted woodland areas. Due to rapid industrial growth, urban sprawl and decades of farming in the fertile flood plains ...
Providing Awesome Experiences
One the greatest joys of heading up the oral history project, Your Parks Your Stories , is meeting awesome individuals and families who have invested much of their lives in Cleveland Metroparks. Their experiences and recollections as children, adults, parents and grandparents could literally fill volumes of books that would be fascinating to read. Last month, I presented a Your Parks, Your Stories update to the Cleveland Metroparks Park Board of Commissioners with the theme of education, one o...
Talk About Hoofin' It!
Some of the first settlers who arrived in what we know today as Brecksville came from Massachusetts on foot. Their imprint is still visible today as a memorial in Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation. In 1811, Lemuel Bourne and his friend Walter Waite made the six-week trek to secure land, then spent a year to clear it and build a cabin. In 1812, they headed back to Massachusetts to convince their parents and families to join them. However, Lemuel had a greater incentive to return to Massachuset...
Conservation – A Pillar of Commitment
Since its inception, Cleveland Metroparks has been dedicated to three major pillars that have directed its mission for 98 years: conservation, education and recreation. The Your Parks, Your Stories oral history project has been a very enlightening experience for Cleveland Metroparks staff, as we hear stories from the public regarding how the parks have impacted, influenced and even directed their career path, and instilled a deep conservation ethic that still guides their everyday actions. Conservation ...
Brookside Park: Providing More Than a Hundred Years of Recreation
Land set aside for the public’s greater good started early in Cleveland history. Brookside Park is one of the earliest parks created for the growing urban population. However a park system was envisioned as the Civil War was coming to a close. As early as 1865, the city of Cleveland began to see the need for establishing public parks. The city council committee proclaimed that Cleveland was “far behind most cities of its class” and encouraged the purchasing of parklands to provide for the city’s “great ...
A Kind and Gentle Friend
Across from the circular wading pool along Gorge Parkway in Bedford Reservation stands a shelterhouse with a curious name: Hermit’s Hollow. With a name like this, there must be a good story behind it. Most of our information comes from a gentleman, Joe Jesensky, who lived 101 years and spent much of his pastime sketching, observing and studying the natural and cultural history of Tinker’s Creek Valley. This beloved man was an artist, naturalist, historian, and writer. Scotty Mills, a past Cleveland Me...
Huntington Reservation – John Huntington’s Legacy
“The view is breathtaking!” John Huntington may have thought as he pushed open the hatch and stepped onto the platform of his water tower overlooking Lake Erie. Often mistaken for a lighthouse, the tower held water pumped from the lake for Huntington’s farm. In 1889, Huntington used the perch to watch for his lake vessels returning to the Cuyahoga River. He could see his apple trees blooming along Porter Creek’s banks. Huntington loved trees, importing many from his native England (includi...
A Central Place of Joyful Meeting
Karamu means a central place of joyful meeting in Swahili. This title was eventually given to an arts theater associated with a neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland called the Playhouse Settlement. The concept began in 1915 by two individuals named Rowena and Russell Jelliffe. They were both social workers and graduates of Oberlin College. Supported by the Second Presbyterian Church, they began to dream and establish a settlement that brought all races and ethnic backgrounds together...
Tinker's Creek: Beauty and History at Every Turn
Have you acquainted yourself with Tinker’s Creek yet? If you haven’t, you are missing a gorgeous waterway in Bedford Reservation. A perfect place to get up close and personal with this 28.2-mile creek just south of downtown Bedford. This historic area was part of the original Bedford Township surveyed in 1797 within the Western Reserve. To experience the creek’s splendor, take Broadway Avenue just south of historic downtown Bedford, cross the railroad tracks and look for Taylor Road. Make the first ri...
Henry Beach: A Humanitarian of Local Reknown
Like many of you, I am always intrigued by old cemeteries found in the countryside along less-traveled roads. Who were these people? How did they pass? What contributions did they make to their neighborhood or community? Many years ago when I moved to Ohio and was getting to know Hinckley Reservation, I stumbled across a little family plot that was located just outside park property on Kellogg Road. I stopped the car and meandered around the gravestones. The name Beach was the most common name fo...
Remnants and Reminiscence of a Precious Place
A crumbling concrete drive, oxidized flaking bridge frames, a huge Quonset hut, and pillars with rusty cables still cling to what was clearly a swinging bridge… all speaking of happy days gone by. Winding road coming down off of Parker Road to Camp Crag - 2014. Old Quonset hut served as kitchen, dining hall and gathering place - 2014. Cables to old swinging bridge - 2014. For nearly 18 years, I have traveled on that ever-increasing crumbling concrete drive, glanced at the structures that have b...
Horsing Around in Cuyahoga County
With Cleveland Metroparks 100 th Anniversary approaching in 2017, we historical interpreters are having a ball. The Your Parks, Your Stories oral history project has opened up wonderful opportunities for us to gather your memories in story and photo form. It has been an awesome experience hearing your passionate and heartfelt recollections about how Cleveland Metroparks has touched lives and how integral it has been to thousands of families and individuals through the generations. One such individual is...
Fur Trade on the Cuyahoga
One of the first things I built when I moved to Ohio nearly 18 years ago was an outdoor canoe rack. My passion for paddling began on northern Indiana rivers where I would skip high school classes and paddle my 90-lb. Grumman canoe down the lazy Eel River by myself. My love for the “pull of the paddle” grew as I took several trips to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota with my youth group. Later I attended college in the north woods of Wisconsin and paddled rivers with whitewater. Northern Michigan rivers a...
Brecksville Nature Center 75th Anniversary
Spring is always a busy time for me at Brecksville Nature Center with school group programs, preschool programs and planning ahead for summer camps. But, this year I am very excited to be busy with a special project. I have the honor of coordinating Brecksville Nature Center’s 75th anniversary celebration on June 6 – 8. The last of Cleveland Metroparks three original Trailside Museums, Brecksville Nature Center opened on June 11, 1939 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Brecksville Trail...
Quarries of Grit
Learning the history of the Western Reserve has been fascinating to me. The struggles the early settlers endured and the spirit of entrepreneurship they possessed still amaze me. As I explore the history of Cleveland Metroparks, their stories began to surface and I became more intrigued about their lives and their connection to the natural resources. I guess it is true what they say, the geology of an area truly determined the vocation of the generations before us. The natural resources dictated w...
Button Road: A Road Less Traveled
Do you like to explore new places, wander down old roads and paths, or peek into dilapidated buildings? I have always been that type of person. Exploring new or very old trails in hopes that I might discover clues from the past is very exciting to me. Several years ago, my friend and fellow Cleveland Metroparks cohort Carl Casavecchia, told me about a historic road that ran along Tinker’s Creek. In fact, the road was part of the Escape on the Underground Railroad program that was held near ...
Return of the Buzzards: Tales of Fact and Fiction
A couple of blogs ago, right before the “Return of the Buzzards,” I told you I would explain why the turkey vultures congregate near Hinckley Lake and in that general vicinity. Here is a bit of information that surrounds this natural phenomenon. Well, there are several answers to that question. Let’s start with a naturalist’s response and then move on to a historical interpreter’s point of view that will be laced with truth and folk legend. Hinckley Township’s river and lake, rocky outcroppings and ledg...
Spotting the Buzzards - A Grand Tradition
Spotting the first buzzards that return to Hinckley every March 15 is a grand tradition. We naturalists prefer to call them by their true name, turkey vulture ( Cathartes aura ). However, for the town of Hinckley and Cleveland Metroparks, celebrating this “welcome back” ceremony for 57 years, a more folksy flavor fits this traditional special event just fine. The story goes that Charlie Willard, a Cleveland Metropolitan Park System policeman for 23 years, had logged the March 15 return of the buzzards. ...
Garfield Park and a Hoosier Farm Boy: A Surprisingly Common Connection
I remember as a child in northern Indiana spending hours upon hours swimming in local farm ponds which (I believe) were dug to keep farm kids out of trouble. In fact, our 80-acre farm had a 2-acre pond that we took advantage of in all seasons. Stocked bluegills and bass provided hours of fishing in the summer along with ice fishing and spontaneous hockey games in the winter. My favorite activity was in my dad’s old row boat. I would push the leaky wooden boat onto the water, dreaming of being a sa...
John Huntington: One Man's Lasting Legacy
What is the one common denominator among the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Metroparks, oil refineries, sandstone quarries, benevolent funds and the city of Cleveland? If you guessed John Huntington, congratulations! I would like to introduce you to a man who started from humble beginnings, but rose to prominence and touched thousands while he was living and millions more since his passing in 1893. John Huntington If you’re a Westsider, you’re certainly aware of Huntington Beach and Cleveland ...
The Legend of Robert Whipp
Many visitors have hiked around the “Sharon Conglomerate” ledges in Hinckley Reservation for years and have admired the geological beauty they offer, but most are not familiar with the amazing story behind the ledges namesake, “Whipp.” Well, sit back for a few minutes while I tell you this true American story of hard work, love and tragedy. Path along Whipp's Ledges Photo courtesy of Hinckley Historical Society When driving around Hinckley Reservation and Hinckley Township, you may observe the la...
Your Parks, Your Stories: Cleveland Metroparks Memories Project
I have had the pleasure of traveling throughout the Greater Cleveland area, presenting cultural and natural history programs for over 17 years. Everywhere I go, whether it’s for senior centers, libraries, public schools, homeschool events, or various civic organizations, people approach me with heartwarming stories of how Cleveland Metroparks has enriched their lives. Not being blessed with a photographic memory, I regret not carrying a recorder to capture, in their own words, some of the vivid me...
A Camp of a Different Kind
When most people think of camp life, especially if you attended one as a child, you probably think of campfires, singing, silly skits, crafts, sports, nature study, night hikes and bunkhouse pranks. However, I am going to share with you another kind of camp that strengthened families, our nation, established parks and helped save our nation’s natural resources. In October of 1929, Cleveland – along with the rest of the nation - was thrust into the Great Depression with market crashes, bank failures and ...
Chagrin Valley's Colorful Character
I often get asked which Cleveland Metroparks reservation is my favorite. I can honestly say I do not have a favorite because they all have unique ecosystems and stories that draw me to them, time and time again. However, I do find myself encouraging people to take a hike along the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River that leads one to Squaw Rock. It may be because this was one of the first hikes I took in Cleveland Metroparks when I first began as a naturalist and historical interpreter in 1996. I was dra...
Little Hannah Jane Egbert
Near my office in Bedford Reservation is a little-known gravesite within Shawnee Hills Golf Course. Those who have golfed at Shawnee Hills in the last year have probably noticed the broken sandstone tombstone as they follow the path down from the 10 th green to the 11 th tee. Barely distinguishable is the year 1843. This site is more noticeable now since the golf course updated its greens and tees in the last year. I remember as a boy from rural Indiana, a family gravesite surrounded...
Bluestone: A Touchstone to the Past
Back in 1996, when I first moved to the Cleveland area and began my career with Cleveland Metroparks, the topic of sandstone always seemed to come up. I didn’t pay much attention to it until I ran across a program that a previous historical interpreter offered a few years earlier. The program was based on old quarry and mill towns that had vanished for one reason or another. My attention and responsibility was pulled elsewhere, but I always kept it in the back of my mind. Then in 2001, I began researchi...
Mystery Cave of Cedar Point Valley
A mysterious "cave" bordered by an archway of sandstone blocks stares out of the shale cliff across the river from Maple Grove Picnic Area in Rocky River Reservation. “Hermit’s Cave,” as it is sometimes called, was once the entrance to a 50-foot long sluiceway, a tunnel that brought water from the Rocky River to the Lawrence Grist Mill. Constructed in 1832 by Joel B. Lawrence, the mill ground grain into flour for inhabitants of the area. Water rushing through the sluiceway rotated a horizontal tub ...
Harriet Keeler - Teacher - Author - Citizen
There are two amazing woman authors/naturalists from the turn of the 20 th Century that I would have loved to have taken a hike with (or at least been asked over for tea): Gene Stratton - Porter from Indiana and Harriet Keeler, who spent most of her life here in the Greater Cleveland area. Gene Stratton-Porter, the author of The Girl of the Limberlost , Freckles , and Laddie and several more novels. Gene was a heart-warming writer who captured the deep emotions of humanity while expressing her love of t...
A Long-Lasting Tradition
A Long-Lasting Tradition – Bridle Trails Around the "Emerald Necklace" Trail riding has been an enduring tradition in Cleveland. In the 1929 Cleveland Metropolitan Park System Annual Report, there were 37 miles of bridle paths. Rocky River, Big Creek, Hinckley, South Chagrin, North Chagrin, Brecksville and Bedford all offered bridle paths for people to enjoy nature on horseback. In the early to mid ‘30s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Workers Progress Administration (WPA) maintained and added...
Early Ranger Life
Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department has gone through dramatic changes since its inception 92 years ago. Here are some interesting facts and tidbits about early Ranger history that you may not know… Cleveland Metropolitan Park System hired its first patrolman on May 5, 1921. Charles L. Fox was the first officer who was issued World War I army/navy military khakis, an officer’s hat and a breast pocket badge. He was expected to furnish his own weapon. Not until 1945 were park officers issued side arms. ...
Our First Naturalist
A.B. Williams and chickadee Photograph courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Natural History Do you have a favorite naturalist or cultural history interpreter at Cleveland Metroparks who has unlocked the wonders of nature and cultural history for you? To thousands in the 1930s and ‘40s, our first naturalist did just that. Who was it, you ask? It was A.B. Williams, our first three-piece-suit naturalist, researcher and writer who left a solid legacy of outdoor education and nature study in N...
New Cleveland Metroparks History Blog - Roots Revealed
Welcome to the first entry of Cleveland Metroparks history blog – Roots Revealed . For 96 years Cleveland Metroparks has been providing conservation, education and recreation opportunities to the public. Our aim is to reveal fascinating facts, connect names and events to the area's history, and stir up fond memories you and your families have shared in Cleveland Metroparks through the years. The main contributors to this weekly blog are cultural history interpreters, a historian/archivist, a...
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