Summit Lake

Environmental study marks bright future for Summit Lake

A year-long environmental study of Summit Lake, a 100-acre lake in south Akron, shows improved water and sediment quality, opening doors for the expansion of programming including canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

Summit Lake was known as the “million-dollar playground” of Akron at the turn of the 20th century, before urbanization and manufacturing polluted the water and surrounding land. Development in the early to middle 1900s cut Summit Lake and the adjacent Summit Lake neighborhood off from other neighborhoods and resources.

The newly-released environmental study was conducted by Summit Brownfields Revitalization Program, administered by Northeast Ohio Four County Planning Organization (NEFCO), and began in spring of 2017. According to the environmental report, which can be found on NEFCO’s website, water quality in Summit Lake has improved since the last testing, though signs of runoff and improper disposal of chemicals are present.

Sediment tests from the bottom of the lake reveal the top foot of the lake bottom soils do not contain heavy metals and chemicals of concern to human health. However, oils do remain trapped in the mud that may stain clothes and leave an oily film on skin. Overall, the report shows that occasional contact with the water and sediments do not pose a human health risk.

“Summit Lake is a tremendous community asset. While we still have work to do, we’re pleased to confirm that Summit Lake’s water quality is now similar to the Portage Lakes or any other inland lake in Ohio,” said City of Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan. “We will continue to partner across the community to invest in the environment and public spaces surrounding Summit Lake to enhance recreational opportunities for our residents.”

Results from the environmental study will support additional programming, while calming negative reactions and questions regarding the lake’s health. Activities permitted at the lake and supported by the report include canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Land recreation includes bicycling, walking, running, and bird watching. Swimming and wading are not permitted at the lake.

While the overall health of the lake has improved, city partners encourage community members to do their part in supporting the health of the lake and other local natural resources. Steps the community can take include:

  • Participating in community litter cleanups.
  • Refraining from pouring chemicals or medications in home or sewer drains.
  • Minimizing or stopping use of lawn chemicals and fertilizer for weed control.
  • Using biodegradable soaps for car washing.
  • Reporting oily sheens on the lake or activities that do not support environmental health, such as improper disposal of chemicals in catch basins.

In addition to the environmental study, partners have made an effort over recent years to engage residents of neighborhoods surrounding the lake in the design of park space and programming. Many of these efforts have been part of Akron Civic Commons, which seeks to revitalize public assets across Summit Lake, Park East and downtown Akron neighborhoods.

In January 2017, the NEFCO General Policy Board approved funding for an environmental assessment of Summit Lake and selected properties adjacent to the lake. With this approval, professional consultants completed a Phase I assessment, an ecological data evaluation, and a Phase II assessment.

The Summit Lake environmental assessment was funded by NEFCO with $110,460 from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Brownfields Assessment Coalition Grant. It is also funded by Reimagining the Civic Commons, a three-year, national initiative to revitalize civic assets supported by four funders: The JPB Foundation, Knight Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation.

Partners involved in the review include City of Akron, Akron Civic Commons, Knight Foundation, NEFCO, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio EPA, Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, Summit County Health Department, Summit Metro Parks, Trust for Public Land, and U.S. EPA.