When I started working at Cuyahoga Valley, the park was called a “national recreation area.” It was young and hard to explain. Most visitors came from nearby communities to exercise in nature.
Later that year (1993), the first 20 miles of Towpath Trail opened with a bold vision of connecting Cleveland to Canton and beyond. In this period of rapid growth, ribbons were cut for new amenities every few years.
When Congress changed the name to “national park” in 2000, the public viewed it as a promotion. Over time rangers began noticing more out-of-state license plates and foreign accents. The Cuyahoga Valley was becoming a tourist destination. And those newcomers couldn’t make sense of the park’s multiple points of arrival, its web of roads, or its smorgasbord of resources.
So 10 years ago, plans began for a new central facility, conveniently located on the well-marked America’s Byway which chases the Towpath Trail through historic canal lands. The community donated $6.85 million to realize the dream.
On Friday, Oct. 25, the doors open. Boston Mill Visitor Center invites you to explore the places and stories, linked by the Cuyahoga River, that define this nontraditional national park.
The images I’ve selected this month are a tease, a glimpse of the final transformations. The valley has a subtle magic that has charmed and challenged people for centuries. Come visit and you might just be transformed too.