As I embark on a new adventure in Cleveland Metroparks, coordinating its 100th Anniversary in 2017, I find myself being able to get out and explore more areas within the park that I haven’t had the chance to revisit for a long time. My first move from Garfield Park Nature Center in February 2014 was to the Park Operations Administration building in Rocky River Reservation. I enjoyed exploring bits and pieces of the reservation during my six weeks there before my next move to Lakefront Reservation in late March.
While in Rocky River Reservation, I was fortunate enough to view the Stinchcomb-Groth Memorial area from Hogsback Lane on numerous drives back to the office. Each time as the winter landscape changed, I would see the area in a new light, a light that kept drawing me to something I hadn’t seen years ago when I made my first visit. I contribute this new view to a changed perspective from 30 years ago. My first time to the site was in 1984 as a seasonal naturalist at Rocky River Nature Center. I recall entering the area from Valley Parkway and making the climb up Hogsback Lane. I walked the area knowing very little about Stinchcomb or Groth at the time. I had more questions than answers when I left. I do, however, recall a sense of wonder while looking over the valley at the first parcel of land acquired by Cleveland Metroparks in the early 1920s.
Stinchcomb Memorial - 1967 - Rocky River Reservation
Fast forward to 2014 where my perspective changed in a few different ways. First of all, I started seeing this area from above as I would drive in along Hogsback Lane down into the park. As I looked over to the memorial, I could see the area where I first stood in 1984 overlooking the valley below. This perspective had an intriguing attraction for me this time. The other perspective that changed is that I now know the importance of William Stinchcomb and Harold Groth, our first two directors of Cleveland Metroparks. Funny how changing your physical frame of reference can help you see things differently, as does the benefit of 31 years of service to the Park District. In both instances, a sense of awe drew me back to the area on rainy day this past April.
Stinchcomb Memorial - 2014 - Rocky River Reservation
As I stepped out of my vehicle, a light mist welcomed me. I wandered over to Stinchcomb’s Memorial first, walking across the grass amphitheater imagining hundreds of people enjoying the summer concerts held here. Soon I was standing at the base of the monument. I could only conjure up images and thoughts of what it must have been like in 1958 when this was dedicated. This, and the life of William A. Stinchcomb all took place before my birth. How I wished I could have met the man who's vision would become Cleveland Metroparks and spent 36 years as our first director. So many questions I would have for him. I wanted to spend time getting into the heart and mind of this remarkable man, who at 27 years old had the vision that sparked Cleveland Metroparks. Yet all I can do is imagine.
Following my exploration of the monument and surrounding woods, my trek took me to the overlook and Groth’s Memorial. I’ll admit, I know much less about Harold W. Groth, but I am making it a mission over the next few years to learn more about his contributions to the Park. This overlook area is where I stood in 1984 looking out over the Rocky River Valley where someone pointed out that down below was the original parcel of land that gave the parks it start. That intrigued me then and still holds special meaning.
Harold Groth Memorial - 2014 Rocky River Reservation
Looking down from Stinchcomb Memorial to the once Stein Property. - 2014
I spent quite some time in the light rain that cool April day just standing, looking and wondering about the early park days, the people, and the purpose behind this special place. My perspective in 1984 was very limited. Today, it has expanded tremendously, but still has more to explore. The differences are many, but now I have meaning to match the wonder I felt in my sophomore year with Cleveland Metroparks. I also have a deeper understanding of what this place and many others mean. I smiled inside as I realized that it all came down to this…I was standing on hallowed ground in the history of Cleveland Metroparks. I am grateful for this place and various others that I’d like to take you to over the next few months.
Will you travel with me?