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Summit Lake: Restoring Relationships & Honoring Our Commitment

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Video Transcript

It's good to see it. You got the canoes out here and people enjoying the water. And actually we're hearing good things and positive things, instead of everything about Summit Lake being negative, you know?

When I came in '82 and came down here it was like the lake didn't exist. It was hidden. It was a community that was undeveloped.

When I was a kid this place just lacked a lot of color. I remember there being a playground. I remember the Summit Lake Community Center, but it was just brown. It was summer and it was hot and there was no life.

A lot of people's perception of the lake was that it was it was polluted.

When I was younger it wasn't cool at all the swim in that water. Not even fish.

There was an amusement park here at one time, but quite frankly it was an amusement park for one group of people and that was primarily white people. Industry pumped water out of the lake to fuel their industry and cool their machines, they pump the dirty water back into the lake. And then the highway comes through here it basically cuts up the neighborhoods. And so we wonder then why a neighborhood declines. Because it has so much disinvestment.

There was a lot of mistrust in this community because there's a history of promising to do things and they never happened.

So when we first started working on Akron Civic Commons seven years ago, one of the things that we encountered that we had no idea that existed was literally this gulf of mistrust. Because unfortunately over the years and decades there has been a legacy of things done too when not with, and things promised and not delivered. One of the key things that the neighborhood residents asked us and this relates directly to the relationship building and trust is "who's this for? Is this for me or is this for somebody coming from behind me?" Because once you build this up, I can't afford to live here. It's a very valid question and so we basically said, "no this is for you."

Akron Civic Commons being committed to that change, the changes they're making here makes people feel that the space is theirs. It makes them feel that, you know, they live here, they belong here. They can use it. And having that conversation and including them over and over again makes them feel like we want to do what you want. So tell us and we'll make it however you want it to be. and that makes them feel that this is their space, this is their area. They live here. They should feel that way.

That went a long way with building the trust, because here's somebody who is actually listening to what we're saying and acting on it.

They've seen that they wasn't here to take it from us. They was here to bring things to our neighborhood. Before we can have a place to come and relax, you know, come and do different activities. That's one of the cleanest waters around here now. You see a lot more people down here fishing.

One of the key components of our Akron Civic Commons Summit Lake work is the Summit Lake North Shore. The first phase of that is the Ohio and Erie Canal Summit Lake Trail that goes all the way around the lake. But what we heard loud and clear from neighborhood residents is they want a destination park where they can have a big pavilion. Holds 150 people. They can have their family reunions, they can have retirement parties, birthday parties, wedding receptions. They'd like to have a place where they can put in a canoe or kayak, and also a dedicated boat launch ramp, because the one on the east side crosses the Towpath Trail.

I see it as a big destination spot for this community and the City of Akron.

It's going to be something that when you look off the freeway, you're going to want to turn back around and get off and come visit.

Having a Loop Trail that continues, smoothly without even walking grass or gravel or anything and connecting the entire Lake, it's going to give them a more unified feeling. This general Summit Lake area, I think it's going to flourish once this is done.

It's good to feel like someone else think my community is worth investing in besides me. So that says a lot, it says a lot.

My hope is that Summit Lake becomes the place where you gotta go. If you really want to experience a diverse community in Akron, you got to go to Summit Lake Park. It's just making a difference in people's lives.

This is a Hidden Gem now, but it's getting put on the map.