Everyday Akron Stories

Summit Metro Parks Restores Cuyahoga River Area of Concern with Akron Community Involvement

Kayakers on Cuyahoga River in Valley View Area - Cascade Valley Metro Park

Summit Metro Parks invited me to their Valley View Area River Celebration on September 8. In the handful of years since they acquired the former golf course, what was once a monoculture devoid of plant and animal diversity is now a stunning natural sight.

Visit Cascade Valley Metro Park
Valley View Area
1212 Cuyahoga St.
Akron, OH 44313

The restoration project brought together various organizations, like Summit Metro Parks (SMP), Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Ohio Public Works Clean Ohio Conservation Fun, Ohio EPA, Cuyahoga River Area of Concern, and Ohio Lake Erie Commission, along with various foundation, state and federal funding.

Keep reading to get to the short documentary, Restoring the Missing Link: Valley View Joins Cascade Valley Metro Park

Ribbon cutting at Valley View Area River Celebration

SMP’s mission was to kickstart the park’s return to a healthier ecosystem. For decades, the Cuyahoga River had barely any signs of life in it from Akron to Cleveland. Now, the one-mile stretch of the river that passes through Valley View is home to an abundant and diverse fish population. This includes sensitive species, like bigmouth buffalo, a fish that had never been seen in Summit County.

monitoring results graphic from Summit Metro Parks

With a healthier river comes even more wildlife in this part of Cascade Valley Metro Park: bald eagles, falcons, wild turkeys, green herons, white-tail deer, Monarch butterflies, bees, grasshoppers, spotted sandpipers, common mergansers… The list will only continue to grow.

What You Can Enjoy at Valley View Area Today

Celebration Trail (1.6-mile basic, easy trail; not fully accessible)
Views of the Cuyahoga River
Breathtaking vistas
Diverse wildlife
Continued site and restoration work
Himelright Lodge rentals
Murals by Matt Miller and Lizzi Aronhalt
Don Drumm’s Sun Tracker sculpture at the park entrance

The temporary Celebration Trail takes visitors on a 1.6-mile loop through the park. Work is still being done in the area, so we’ll be able to watch things develop over the years. Not only are they continuing the restoration project, but they’re working on increasing river access for kayakers, tubing, and simply sitting and enjoying the view.

It’s one thing for Summit Metro Parks to protect and restore Akron’s green spaces. Yet they continuously impress me through their intentional planning and commitment to involve the local community in order to create spaces we all can enjoy.

Himelright Lodge at Valley View Area

Many Everyday Akron hosts mention enjoying the park systems in Northeast Ohio, especially Summit Metro Parks. This is one more incredible space for us to breathe fresh air, hike through nature, dance with butterflies, relax with calming river sounds, and soak up the gratitude for having access to parks like Valley View.

During the River Celebration event, City of Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters brought up a good point: Even though our parks are free, they are an “economic driver.” He said, “Young professionals demand these things to live here.” I can only speak for myself… and likely most of my friends… and many of the Everyday Akron hosts… and say I wholeheartedly agree.

Eric Ellis, Project Manager from Great Lakes Commission, later added that the return on investment for a restoration project like this is about 3 times the initial cost. We’re not only saving fish and other wildlife — we’re saving the Akron community.

Watch the short documentary, Restoring the Missing Link: Valley View Joins Cascade Valley Metro Park

Valley View Area’s history most likely began with Indigenous People using it for transportation and natural resources. The Himelright dairy farm later occupied the area–their barn is now the park’s Himelright Lodge.

In the 1930s, the Wheelock Cuyahoga Acres neighborhood started to form in the northern part of the property. This racially integrated neighborhood, which was unusual for its time, lasted until the mid-1970s. And, of course, before turning into today’s park, most of the property was a popular golf course.

Now that it’s part of Summit Metro Parks, what other stories will be woven into its history?

View of Cuyahoga River

As SMP adds more trails, scenic overlooks, shelters and picnic areas, and a bridge connection to the Ohio & Erie Canalway Towpath Trail, Valley View Area’s destiny can go in many directions.

Thankfully, it’s now headed in a beautiful direction with SMP’s incredible restoration efforts.

Special thanks to Summit Metro Parks for inviting me to the Valley View Area River Celebration. I had an amazing time learning about the restoration project and future plans, along with hiking the trail.

All photos taken by me, Rachel Whinnery. Monitoring results graphic courtesy of Summit Metro Parks.