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Akron -- Summit Metro Parks has entered into a deal with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Ohio State Parks division to acquire 1,000 acres from the state, areas in Streetsboro and Aurora.
Metro Parks officials have signed a 25-year management agreement with ODNR affecting Tinkers Creek State Park in Streetsboro and Tinkers Creek State Nature Preserve in Aurora. Both areas make up a combined 1,141 acres and border the district's 2,000-acre Liberty Park in Twinsburg, Twinsburg Township and Reminderville.
The deal also transfers management of the 6-acre Portage Lakes Wetland State Nature Preserve, a sphagnum bog surrounded by Portage Lakes State Park in Akron, and the 18-acre Karlo Fen, a wetland about 12 miles southeast of Akron.
"The two Tinkers Creek properties see mostly local visitors for day-use activities, which is consistent with other areas we manage," said Keith Shy, director-secretary for Summit Metro Parks. "They are great additions to our park district."
According to the agreement, Summit Metro Parks rangers will patrol the park areas, and the district may make facility and trail improvements over time, if needed, in Tinkers Creek. The Portage Lakes Wetland and Karlo Fen areas have no public access and will remain conservation areas.
"We appreciate having the opportunity to partner with the Summit Metro Parks," said ODNR Director James Zehringer. "With their close proximity to these state properties, they will ensure these important areas are managed with a daily presence while allowing us to allocate resources to other areas that need closer attention."
The Tinkers Creek areas are just minutes from the Liberty Park field office in Twinsburg, where the park's daily maintenance is coordinated. Summit Metro Parks intends to add one part-time year-round employee to assist with the maintenance of the Tinkers Creek areas and its new Liberty Park Nature Center, which broke ground in April in Twinsburg, with a planned opening next spring.
Plans for the approximately $3 million nature center project, which will be funded entirely by the park district, include a 3,900-square-foot building with exhibits and programming space, a picnic shelter, small outdoor amphitheater and two new hiking trails.
Liberty Park was established in 2001 when the city of Twinsburg purchased the park's Twinsburg Ledges Area (for about $10.5 million) for Summit Metro Parks to manage. Additional purchases and leases by the park district expanded the park, which harbors countless rare and endangered species, such as Indiana bats, marsh wrens, bald eagles and more. It earned Important Bird Area designation by Audubon Ohio in 2006.
With the ODNR agreement, Summit Metro Parks now manages 12,900 total acres, including more than 3,100 acres in the contiguous Liberty Park and attached Aurora and Streetsboro areas.
Its 14 parks and more than 125 miles of trails see more than 5 million visits every year. The district is funded by a Summit County real estate tax, last approved by voters in 2013 by 75 percent. For more information, call 330-865-8065 or visit summitmetroparks.org.