Stories

Humans of ACC: Evelyn Harper and Alvin Hurt

Area Couple Become Lock 2 Ambassadors

By Abbey Bashor

Lock 2 ambassadors Evelyn and Alvin.
Lock 2 Ambassadors Evelyn Harper and Alvin Hurt. Photo by Bronlynn Thurman.

 

On any given sunny afternoon at Lock 2 Park in downtown Akron, Evelyn Harper and Alvin Hurt can be found enjoying the outdoor space under the shade of a leafy tree. The couple tends to spend time near their favorite spot at the far end of the park, nearest to the canalway’s flowing water. While many might be content with simply taking in the serenity of the place, Evelyn and Alvin go beyond. They were recently honored as stewards of the park space, tasked with maintaining a watchful eye over the area as beautification enhancements have been made.

Harper and Hurt—both longtime residents of the Akron area—say that they spend nearly every day at Lock 2, and have been doing so for years. The couple has been together for nearly 14 years and has been visiting the area for about that long as well. “Lock 2 is a very peaceful place here. I like the atmosphere,” says Harper. “Before this park was officially Lock 2, we were here,” adds Hurt. “There were old benches and tables that have been taken out, and new trees have been planted and even a bridge added.” They note that they see a variety of people make their way through the area each day, either walking, biking, or stopping to look at the canal. “People like to come down here for lunch. Nurses, doctors, patients—even the kids from the [Children’s] hospital sometimes come down to see some of the adventurous things here.”

 

According to the couple, visitors now have a purpose for stopping by that they previously lacked. Lock 2 has undergone a revamping this past summer which has seen the addition of colorful outdoor seating, vibrant streamers hanging from the branches of trees, accent lighting, fresh paint, and even a small bookshelf for children to read from and explore. Take into account the skeleton of an old canal boat that exists as the central feature of the park and these updates seem to be a surefire way of inviting locals to spend time in a charming public space. “It’s changed big-time, and for the better,” says Hurt. “People can come down here for some peace of mind.” Adds Harper, “And the colorful environment; the trees and everything else.”

The enhancements to Lock 2 come as part of efforts made by the Akron Civic Commons project, which Harper and Hurt learned of just over the summer. After meeting members of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, the couple shared stories of the area’s history and their relationship to the park. “At the time, they were putting chairs and benches down here, and we were interested in what they were doing,” explains Hurt. “We were asked if we wanted to be volunteers of the area, and we said ‘Yeah!’ We now watch the area as a presence and make sure there aren’t any problems or vandalism,” says Harper.

Now that the couple has joined in on the Civic Commons movement, they applaud the work that is being done. “The Akron Civic Commons project is beautiful,” says Harper. “I think it’s wonderful that they’re making more of an effort in the area.” Hurt agrees, but adds that communication should be heightened and signs put up allowing people to see what the Lock 2 changes are all about. “People are responding well, but slow. They just need to know what’s going on down here.”

Harper and Hurt say that since these enhancements have been made to the area, their wish is that residents are inspired to be a part of the change. “I hope people know that Lock 2 and this area is for the whole community; that they can come down here at any time for some peace of mind and be here with their families,” says Harper. For Hurt, the project has shown that “there are still people who care.” He adds that since this project has given something to the community, “the community should give something back, too. It’s not one-way; it’s two ways. We’re showing that we care about our outdoor spaces and each other.”