Cleveland Metroparks Board of Park Commissioners today announced that CEO Brian M. Zimmerman has agreed to a long-term formal commitment to serve as the Park District’s CEO through the next decade. The Board of Park Commissioners authorized an extension to Zimmerman’s contract at the March 2023 Board Meeting to solidify his leadership of Cleveland Metroparks through its recently adopted Second Century of Stewardship System Plan.
“The Board of Park Commissioners is excited to share that Brian Zimmerman will remain CEO of Cleveland Metroparks as it enters its second century of stewardship,” said President of the Board of Park Commissioners Bruce G. Rinker. “Since Brian joined Cleveland Metroparks in 2010, he has been transformational in strategically connecting our region, growing the Park District and enhancing its impact for all we serve. He has helped establish Cleveland Metroparks as one of most recognized and highly regarded park systems in the nation. This long-term contract recognizes Brian’s tremendous leadership and ensures his commitment to and stewardship of Cleveland Metroparks for years to come.”
The announcement follows the adoption of Cleveland Metroparks’ Second Century of Stewardship System Plan by the Board of Park Commissioners last year. The plan lays out a bold vision to build on the success of Cleveland Metroparks over the past decade and sets forth core goals to conserve, welcome, sustain, innovate, engage, and connect the Park District to better the region.
Since Zimmerman joined Cleveland Metroparks in 2010, he has helped grow the Park District by more than 15% through strategic land acquisitions and added nearly 60 miles of trails to create a more connected, equitable and healthy region. He has also improved park relevancy and impact through programs and amenities that have made the Park District more important than ever including a record-setting more than 19 million visitors each of the last three years. He has also helped further advance Cleveland Metroparks Zoo into a leader in animal care, education and conservation. And he has helped secure more than $150 million in external grants and donations to maximize investments in projects across the park district. With these efforts, Cleveland Metroparks has garnered national recognition through several awards including the 2016 and 2021 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park Management by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA), the highest national honor in parks and recreation.
Over the next several years as part of its strategic plan, Zimmerman will be critical to overseeing and executing a series of projects across the Park District to prioritize and expand park access and equity, including:
- Advancing the Cleveland Harbor Eastern Embayment Resilience Strategy (CHEERS) with project partners including Port of Cleveland, Black Environmental Leaders, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Transportation. CHEERS will reconnect communities to the lake, improve public health and environmental resiliency along Cleveland’s east side.
- Partnering with the City of Cleveland and Councilman Hairston to bring the southern portion of Gordon Park under the management of Cleveland Metroparks as part of Cleveland’s lakefront transformation. The neighborhood park includes 48 acres between East 72nd Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
- Prioritize trail connections with a particular focus on east side communities, including:
- East 9th to East 55th: trail connection to create a contiguous connection from downtown Cleveland to University Circle and beyond.
- Slavic Village Downtown Connector: trail project to connect the Slavic Village neighborhood and completed Morgana Run Trail to the Towpath Trail through Cleveland Metroparks Washington and Ohio & Erie Canal reservations to the south and Opportunity Corridor and Downtown Cleveland to the north.
- Euclid Creek Greenway: a multi-phased proposed trail project to connect the lower portion of Euclid Creek Reservation to its lakefront portion.
- Continue to execute the Cuyahoga County Greenways plan alongside project partners to build regional and neighborhood connections and expand park access.
- Restore Garfield Park’s historic pond and increase recreational and educational opportunities at the reservation.
- Continue to assess management opportunities of the East Cleveland portion of the historic Forest Hill Park, one of the east side’s largest contiguous and historic greenspaces.
Zimmerman will also lead Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to its 150th anniversary through the multi-phased Primate Forest, a world-class indoor destination that will create a new home for some of the most endangered primate species including gorillas, orangutans as well as hundreds of other animal and plant species from around the globe.
Cleveland Metroparks is governed by Cleveland Metroparks Board of Park Commissioners, President Bruce G. Rinker and Vice Presidents Debra K. Berry and Dan T. Moore. The contract extension approved by the Board will be effective April 1, 2023 through August 31, 2034.
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