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 is one of the three pillars, but it serves as the foundation for what created the park system in the first place. Without preserving, conserving and protecting the land, Cleveland Metroparks would not have the enduring excellent reputation it enjoys.
It is evident that past directors and Park Board members were of like mind as they expanded the park system and dealt with conservation concerns while maintaining responsible public usage.
In Cleveland Metropolitan Park District’s first Annual Report in 1918, we find the Park Board expressing these foundational principles:
“…to provide these rural parks and open spaces to the people of the great City of Cleveland and its surrounding communities, as well as to conserve and preserve the valleys in the district….”
Proposed Boulevard System (Emerald Necklace) in 1916.
As long ago as 1918, the Park Board foresaw the great value and urgency in setting aside these rural lands and waterways for the soon-to-become burgeoning suburbs and already rapidly expanding city of Cleveland.
In 1929, the Annual Report documented the park system’s awareness and commitment to the environmental health of Northeast Ohio's streams and beaches.
“Streams and beaches are among the most important resources of any park system.”
“When these streams and beaches can be kept clean and pure, they constitute one of the most attractive and valuable features with the Park.”
Huntington Beach - Huntington Reservation
The Cleveland Metropolitan Park District Annual Report – 1944-45 further communicates its mission and responsibility to the public:
“Unless these parks are a valuable contribution to a fuller, richer and more expressive life for people they have little justification.”
“That is what has motivated the members of the park board over the years of acquisition and development of the park system.”
“That the scenic areas embracing the Metropolitan Park System should be preserved, developed and used to enrich the lives of people…”
The Cleveland Metroparks Mission Statement of 2015 declares its longstanding commitment to the public and to the three pillars that it has held true to for nearly a century:
Cleveland Metroparks will conserve significant natural resources and enhance people’s lives by integrating high-quality outdoor education, recreation, and zoological opportunities into people's lives.
Cleveland Metroparks in the last few years has acquired lakefront property and expanded its green space to create larger buffer zones to protect the beaches, rivers and streams of Northeast Ohio. The creation of West Creek Watershed Stewardship Center in 2010 is further evidence that Cleveland Metroparks is staying true to its nearly 100 year-old-mission.
West Creek Watershed Stewardship Center
But don’t take it from me. Let’s hear it from those who have been impacted by Your Parks! Here are a few of their Stories…
David Jarzen, Ph.D.
Estelle Rodis Brown