As an out-of-town transplant one of the first things a native Clevelander showed me when I moved into town was Cleveland Metroparks. She was very proud of the Park District and rightly so. But many native Clevelanders are unaware of how unique and progressive this extensive Park District was and is today.
It started with the foresight, determination and hard work of a few hardy souls. If not for these forward thinkers we would not have the wonderful parks we value today. As you head outside to spend time in our nearly 100 year-old park system be reminded of those before us that dedicated their time and effort to build this magnificent Park District from a few scattered donations of land.
It all started over one hundred years ago when a young, self-taught engineer conceived the idea of an outer chain of parks around Cleveland.
“I want to suggest the advisability of ultimately establishing an outer system of parks and boulevards.” William A. Stinchcomb, Cleveland City Parks Engineer, Annual Report 1905
The idea of anticipating the future need for open space and setting aside land for an expansive Park District caught on as others embraced Stinchcomb’s vision.
“This is the only park district of its kind in the state. It is a new idea in Ohio and this Board is doing the pioneering . . . These beautiful valleys and glens must be preserved for the benefit of present and many future generations.” (This quote is not attributed to one individual but is in the report of the three commissioners at the time, Harry M. Farnsworth, Louis A. Moses and Charles H. Miller) 1919, Second Annual Report of the Board of Park Commissioners of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District.
Stinchcomb worked hard to enhance, in no small measure, the quality of life of Greater Clevelanders.
“Natural resources are the things which Nature gives us . . . forests, streams, lakes, fresh air-all of these are great resources and their recreational value to city dwellers far exceeds their commercial value as timber to be cut down and water power to be harnessed by industry.” William A. Stinchcomb, Cleveland Plain Dealer 9 Feb 1929
In 1930, at the age of 56, Arthur B. Williams, turned a lifelong hobby into his second profession as he joined the staff of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History with a special assignment as naturalist for the Cleveland Metropolitian Park District.
“Civilization is destructive, but in the Metropolitan Park System animal and plant life may be preserved for a long, long, time.” Arthur B. Williams, Cleveland Plain Dealer 13 Nov 1936 (Williams was our first naturalist)
“While the exhibits at the Trailside Museum represented the common things to be seen in the locality, we tried to explain that the real exhibit was the whole big park itself.” A.B. Williams, 1931 Annual Report of the Board of Park Commissioners of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District.
Over the last 98 years Stinchcomb’s true legacy – not just a chain of parks, but citizens with an intelligent appreciation of these natural areas and an interest in their conservation for future generations of Greater Clevelanders has come to fruition. Looking back at the plans and passion for a comprehensive park system, Cleveland Metroparks can look with pride at its history and accomplishments.