Roots Revealed is Cleveland Metroparks history blog that brings to light some of the history of the parks and its people. As I read the blogs and even prepare to write some of them, I am initially drawn to certain aspects of the park’s history. This month, I wanted to write about some of the history I have discovered in Bedford Reservation over the years. This reservation of over 2200 acres is full of history from the area’s early inhabitants to the days of mills and railroads to the resource changes due to land usage. As I prepared to write about Bedford Reservation, I realized that there is too much to share in one blog, so I may spread it out over several future blogs. I also realized something else in my recent wanderings, something you may even have experienced in your trips through Cleveland Metroparks. Come along, walk with me and let’s discover together something unexpected…
Fall was definitely in the air at Hemlock Creek Picnic Area (at the southwestern end of Bedford Reservation), despite being a few days from turning the page on the calendar. The blue sky was interrupted with wisps of white clouds, the leaves were just beginning to show a tinge of color replacing the summer green, and the air simply smelled autumnal fresh. Yet there was a sense that something else was “in the air” as well, something that I have hidden inside but seems to get drawn out at this time of year, at this very place. This is the site, where for 14 years from 1997-2010, the staff and volunteers of Garfield Park Nature Center presented Escape on the Underground Railroad, a re-enactment that took guests back into 1852. For nearly 3 hours during fall evenings, people had the opportunity to learn what slave life might have been like for those misfortune to have lived it. Through this program, eyes and minds were opened, while hearts and attitudes were changed for both cast members and participants.
With the passing of this program I thought I had moved on, but on today’s wanderings I realized that this happens each fall to me. I am drawn to this place and so are my memories, making this picnic area part of my history within the park. In all my years of presenting programs, never has one program or a series of programs made such an impact on me. As I wandered the area, I realized that in trying to prepare to write a blog for Roots Revealed, I was having my own roots revealed. The years of preparing for and presenting this program brought me into the lives of so many people from so many backgrounds. Numerous cast members and participants have shared so much over the years. I realized that this all made a huge change in how I saw people, their trials and tribulations, their joys and their tears.
As I wandered the field and woods this day, it wasn’t the whispering leaves or rushing creek that made me sigh and smile. These were just the canvasses for the sounds of distant memories that to this day paint a picture of humanity on my soul. The field reminds me of the “auction re-enactment”, the trails that seasonally wind me through the springtime Virginia bluebells now bring to mind the relief of “freedom on the horizon” for so many, and the Civilian Conservation Corps wall along Tinker’s Creek brings awe of the numerous full moons witnessed beside it over the years. I am grateful for this time and for this place. Over a century ago, local natives traversed the nearby Mahoning Trail, pioneers raised broom corn in the field, more recently ballgames and horseshoes were enjoyed during a picnic. But this place, at this time, will always take me back to a place where I may have made a difference in someone’s outlook on life, and where many have made a difference on mine.
As I pulled myself away from the field and left the past behind me, I wondered what kind of stories like this might be waiting to be told by others. Is there a place, a program, or an event somewhere in Cleveland Metroparks that has made such an impact on you that you would be willing to share with us? Please consider sharing your story and letting us take a walk to discover “your roots” in Cleveland Metroparks (see Your Parks, Your Stories: Cleveland Metroparks Memories Project)