AKRON, Ohio – The 4thand Akron’s annual Parks Week will kick off, with the goal of energizing the community by encouraging residents to come together to use and improve the city’s parks.
This year, residents will vote on the edible plants installed in Elizabeth Park’s food forest, as well as the planting design used in the forest.
Akron Parks Week will run May 9-15 and will feature several events throughout the week, the city said in a statement.
Parks Week is a collaboration between the city, Keep Akron Beautiful and Ohio-based Davey Tree Expert Co.
“Research has shown that people who spend time outdoors are healthier and happier, so we’re thrilled to encourage the Akron community to get outside and enjoy the area’s beautiful parks,” said said Sandra Reid, Davey Tree’s vice president of corporate communications.
This year, volunteer groups from FirstEnergy and Keller-Williams Realty will partner with city employees at Waters Park, 169 E. Glenwood Ave., in the North Hill neighborhood, the city said.
Volunteers will carry out several beautification projects in the historic park, which sits atop a hill overlooking the city center.
A free community event will take place from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at Elizabeth Park, 40 E. Lods St. in the Cascade Valley neighborhood. The rainy date is Sunday, May 15.
“Residents of the Cascade Valley neighborhood have shown their commitment to Elizabeth Park and have dedicated time and effort to make it a great park for their community,” said Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This kind of commitment is what really drives an improved and thriving public space that best meets the needs of the region it serves, and that’s what Parks Week is all about.”
The event will provide many opportunities for volunteers, including tree planting, landscaping and mulching, the city said. A general cleaning of the park and a cleaning of the nourishing forest will also be in progress.
Volunteers should bring gardening gloves, but shovels and planting tools will be available on site. Volunteers are asked to register online prior to the event, either individually or as a group for a two or four hour shift.
City parks maintenance staff and recreation and parks staff will be on hand at the event to oversee the planting of more than 100 trees, including an orchard and native trees, the city said. To vote on the types of trees planted, visit the Elizabeth Park Food Forest voting site.
Residents can also vote on a planting design, choosing from several colorful plans available for viewing online. Choose from Mind Body Soul, Leaves & Rivers, Jazz Spiral, Flower of Jazz, Sacred Spirals or Sacred Circles.
Residents attending the event are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket, as Akron’s Red Rose Panic will provide live music from 1-3 p.m. on the Showmobile Stage.
Food and beverages will be available for sale at the International Jerk and Jenuine Cuisines food trucks. Also in attendance will be 4 Bros and a Sis Lemonade Stand, which is an Ellet family business started by the siblings.
Akron Parks Week is separate from the Akron Parks Challenge, which is a city-led initiative that annually asks residents to submit their best ideas for improving a city park. Two or three parks are chosen in each challenge to undergo around $100,000 in upgrades.
In 2019, the Cascade Valley neighborhood won the Akron Parks Challenge. Elizabeth Park’s environment—seating, picnic tables, basketball courts, and a performance area—has been improved or under construction since then.
“Having been part of the winning team for the 2019 Akron Parks Challenge, we have seen growing interest throughout northeast Ohio in supporting community engagement in Elizabeth Park and the Cascade Valley neighborhood,” said said Michael Anthony Howard, co-founder of Friends of Elizabeth. Park. “When people hear that there are efforts to involve residents in participatory projects that improve the community, the excitement is palpable.”
The food forest was developed separately under the direction of urban designer Beth Vild, with several collaborators, the city said.
While a Food Forest is about providing sustainable food and improving the health of residents, the Elizabeth Park Food Forest is also about redressing the systemic racism the neighborhood has faced for decades, said Vild, of the area. red to the suburbanization that drove developers to build Route 59 through the heart of Akron’s largest black business district in the 1960s and 70s.
Elizabeth Park Food Forest is designed so that once it reaches full maturity, harvesting, weeding and trail maintenance will be the only maintenance work required, which will be supervised by the Friends of Elizabeth Park, Vild said.