Pop-up nature center at Summit Lake wins top Ohio award

Summit Metro Parks has won first place in the 2017 Ohio Parks & Recreation Association’s awards of excellence for its pop-up nature center at Summit Lake.

Named the top environmental and interpretive program in Ohio this year, the temporary center — located inside the Reach Opportunity Center (390 W. Crosier St., Akron) — is part of the multi-partner Reimagining the Civic Commons project.

“We couldn’t be happier,” Lisa King, executive director of Summit Metro Parks, said of the award. “This was a true team effort, with staff and partners all working toward the same goal of improving the community.”

The award will be presented to Summit Metro Parks officials during the association’s 2018 conference in Sandusky, January 28–31.

The park district, with support from Knight Foundation, the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition and others, transformed an empty classroom earlier this year into a space for exhibits, programs, a learning lab, a reading corner and more. Originally slated to be open mid-June through Labor Day, the district is keeping it open through December for after-school and specialty programs.

Summit Metro Parks also added outdoor elements at Summit Lake this summer including picnic tables, grills and a temporary event space.

King cited Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and the City of Akron as additional partners.

The park district’s outreach manager, Demetrius Lambert-Falconer, said the goals of the project were simple: “We wanted to provide a safe park environment, programs that emphasized nature and wellness, and introduce Summit Lake residents to Summit Metro Parks.”

Activities offered at Summit Lake have included children’s programs, fishing opportunities, art classes, community awareness programs, and Zumba and reggae-yoga events.

“Parks and recreation professionals throughout Ohio work every day to improve the quality of life of the people they serve,” said Ohio Parks & Recreation Association Executive Director Woody Woodward. “This effort is a shining example of that kind of work, and we are pleased to be able to present this award to Summit Metro Parks.”

The awards are judged by a panel of parks and recreation professionals from around Ohio.

Reimagining the Civic Commons is a national initiative that seeks to counter economic and social fragmentation in cities by revitalizing and connecting public spaces such as parks, plazas, trails and libraries to bring together people from different backgrounds. It is supported by The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and local funders.

For more information about Summit Metro Parks and its programs, call 330–865–8065 or visit summitmetroparks.org.