Recap: May Summit Lake Neighborhood Association Meeting

May 20, 2017
By Bob Downing

Jane Marr, a long-time resident of Akron’s Summit Lake neighborhood, likes what she sees in Summit Metro Park’s plans for the neighborhood. She especially likes the park district’s plan to use rocks and logs to create a more natural play area for small children, including her own grandchildren. “Kids love to climb on rocks, and I think that is a great idea,” she said at the May 18 meeting of the Summit Lake Neighborhood Association. The rock-and-wood playground was one feature of the newly drafted plan for Summit Lake outlined by Nick Moskos, chief of planning and development for the park district. It is intended to help attract youngsters and get them outdoors and closer to nature, he said.

The county-wide park system has received a $320,000 Akron Civic Commons grant to help the Summit Lake neighborhood. Moskos’ presentation was a chance for the community to respond to the plans drafted by the park district. The plans received positive feedback from the 35 people at the community meeting.

The Akron Civic Commons has been listening to possible projects in the Summit Lake community for nearly six months. Organizers want to know if what they now have planned is “truly reflective of what you want,” said Daniel Rice, president and CEO of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition. “The time for doing is now. Money is not the issue. We want you to be happy with what we are proposing. Tonight is not the end; it’s the beginning,” he said.

The current plan, Moskos said, starts with a small area at the north end of the lake near the Summit Lake Community Center. His presentation was also a chance for neighbors to learn more details of the plan and that elements of the plan will be built and installed in the coming weeks and months. This includes a large tent that will serve as a picnic shelter and stage for musical groups near the Summit Lake Community Center. Officials will be able to move the tent around this summer to find the best location at Summit Lake for such a shelter, Moskos said. The fear was that it was unclear where the best site at Summit Lake is for such a permanent picnic shelter, he continued. The tent will be purchased by the park district.

Picnic tables with colorful umbrellas and brightly colored chairs will be added nearby. Rocks and logs will be added to the current playground. The fence around the playground will be removed and benches added. Wooden swings will be built at the edge of the lake. Existing walkways will be repaired. Lighting will be added in spots. Rocks will be added to shoreline spots at the north end of the lake and along the Ohio & Erie Canal, Moskos added. Doing so will provide safe access to the water for anglers and others and eliminate muddy and unsafe lake access spots that are used now.

The plan is to also curtail mowing at Summit Lake and to create a more natural landscape, said Moskos, a landscape architect. Mowing less at Summit Lake will “create a different outdoor space.” The grass will be allowed to grow higher–knee high–and native vegetation would be planted, after the grass is removed, improving wildlife habitats. That will also help keep children out of the water and help keep Canada geese in the water and not on land where their droppings can create a mess, Moskos said. Walkways would be cut in the grass to access the new swings and the water. He likened what would be created to be “windows to the lake.” Those shoreline spots would be “safe and comfortable,” he said.

He also wants to add artwork to parking lots to add color and to separate people and cars near the Summit Lake Community Center. The goal is to make Summit Lake “a cool destination venue,” Moskos said. “We want to install features that will encourage people to come and hang out; a place that is secure and that can be celebrated.” Summit Lake is “beautiful but has been under-utilized,” he added. The latest plans received positive comments from those at the meeting. “I like it,” said Michael Starks, head of the neighborhood association. Resident Helen Dauka said she was also enthused by the rock-climbing area near the playground. “I love big rocks,” she said. “That is so much fun. It’s a fun zone. That’s my favorite part.”

The meeting also triggered a discussion of trash and getting neighborhood residents to care about the planned improvements. The park district intends to install the various elements of the park plan and then will review how they are being used, making any needed changes. It is a process called prototyping, Moskos explained. Taking risks at Summit Lake is an acceptable part of the Akron Civic Commons process, Rice added.

The park district will also be offering nature programs for families and youngsters at the REACH Opportunity Center. This will include a fishing derby from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 16, said park staffer Demetrius Lambert-Falconer who has been assigned to Summit Lake. She will be joined by two seasonal staffers.

In other action, the 25 entries in the Summit Lake Pride T-shirt design contest were unveiled and displayed at the meeting. Those in attendance voted for the winning designs. The goal is to find a design that captures the spirit, positivity and vibrancy of the Summit Lake neighborhood. There are cash prizes, and the winning design will be printed and distributed.