In the mid 1970’s individuals within the League of Woman Voters and then Junior League of Akron, sensing a need for community activism and support for the Summit Metro Parks, began requesting the formation of a friend’s group in support of the Summit Metro Parks. Having met with resistance for several decades, a core group of community leaders led by Christine Frietag finally received approval to establish the Friends of Metro Parks on May 9, 1991.
From its inception, the Friends of Metro Parks was a close partner and ally of the Summit Metro Parks. During its early days, the Friends represented the largest volunteer organization to the Summit Metro Parks, who at the time had not year started its volunteer organization. The Friends filled the need for a volunteer core by planning nature walks, helping with receptions for park events, and ideating several of the communities most visible events including STOMP (September Tour of Metro Parks), which became one of the largest bicycle touring events in Northeast Ohio, and the Fall Family Outing which runs to this day and is attended by several hundred families each year. All of this support came from a growing list of members with their financial support.
Over the years the Friends of Metro Parks has provided community-based oversight in support or opposition of organizational and environmental proposals which would impact the Summit Metro Parks. The first example of this came when the City of Akron sought for the Summit Metro Parks to assume oversight of the Akron Zoo as well as the Ed Davis Community Center. Despite high community support Friend’s members overwhelmingly opposed this merger, which was consequently turned down by Metro Park commissioners. Other issues in which Friends members influenced our park district included concern for the opening of a restaurant within the park, the construction of a 75 foot cell tower at The Nature Realm and the licensing of various electric projects which would impact Silver Creek Metro Park.
While advocacy for our Summit Metro Parks and the conservation of parklands and the environment has always been foundational to the Friends it wasn’t until 1995 when a formal Advocacy committee was formed. As a voice for its members the Advocacy committee of the Friends has encouraged community support and advocated for increased animal biodiversity, the management of invasive plans, the prevention of storm water erosion, and legislation such as the Clean Ohio Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
With the financial support of its members the Friends has provided needed resources to the Summit Metro Parks to help them enhance and deliver community programing. In 1993 the Friends purchased a telescope to help the park with its astronomy programing and most recently as the COVID-19 Pandemic forced many citizens indoors the Friends helped purchase the equipment needed to allow the Summit Metro Parks to enhance and deliver valuable virtual programing.
Over the last 30 years the Friend of Metro Parks has been a community voice for our Summit Metro Parks and the local environment. Started by a small number of passionate leaders the Friends continues to act as a voice for the community and a leader for the next generation of parks goes.