Launched in 1917 with just 3 acres, the Cleveland Metroparks now encompasses more than 24,000 acres of nature and 300 miles of trails. And 2021 saw the completion of several major projects, including the final stretch of the Towpath Trail. This fall, the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration awarded the Metroparks the “Best in Nation” gold medal, which the park also won in 2016, the last year it was eligible to do so. We checked in with Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman to see where the park system goes from here.
Q: What’s your next big idea?
A: Right now, we’re in the process of adding phase one of our pump track system in the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation in Cuyahoga Heights. We also have a wonderful plan for the zoo to rebuild the gorilla and orangutan habitat in the Rainforest. And we’ve added a new dome to the Rainforest designed to let more light in.
Q: Where should someone new to the parks start?
A: One of my ultimate favorite locations is the Rocky River Reservation. You can literally get lost for 17 miles of parkway, enjoying the peaceful serenity of your surroundings. Visitors can also download our new app, Find Your Path, which allows you to tailor-make your trail connections and find events.
Q: Can you share a hidden gem?
A: Mill Creek Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in Cuyahoga County. It’s one of the most breathtaking natural features the parks have to offer.
Q: Do you have a favorite winter spot?
A: South Chagrin Reservation, all along the river, offers truly remarkable views — cedar trees with snow on them. Fresh snow in the morning is awesome.
Q: How do you envision the Metroparks in 10 years?
A: We’re really focused on helping implement the Cuyahoga Greenways Plan that allows more communities to have access to trails. A great example is the Slavic Village Downtown Connector. One of the over-arching themes is how do we connect the region? Cuyahoga County is a built-out environment. Partnerships are going to be the key to allow certain corridors and connections.