Cleveland Metroparks flaunts its assets with national recognition

It’s nothing new for the Cleveland Metroparks to win awards for its stellar park system. Nor is it unusual for the system’s officials to take a national leadership role in designing best practices for the country’s parks and recreation sites.


Now the Metroparks has done it again—announcing yesterday, Monday, July 13 that Metroparks chief operating officer Joe Roszak has been named president of the board of directors of the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO).


As NACPRO president, Roszak will help develop legislative policy and planning efforts for the 110-plus member parks across the United States. “I’m looking forward to it,” says Roszak of his new role. He has been a member of the organization for more than a decade and has taken on increased leadership positions over the years.


“It’s definitely an opportunity for me to expose myself to other ideas and programs.” he says. “I think it’s a great benefit to my position here, and to the Metroparks and the public.”


Roszak says that being a part of a national network helps form solid policies and programming ideas. “It will help shape some of the connections and gear things in a way that helps Cleveland,” he explains. “Being able to utilize those resources [is helpful], especially when it comes to grant funding.”


Roszak will serve a one-year term as president and will serve through June 2021.


Additionally, NACPRO awarded the Cleveland Metroparks with two awards—one award is for trail and corridor design on the Valley Parkway Connector Trail; the other is for top park programs with its annual First People Day.


In 2018 the connector trail was the last link in the Emerald Necklace that makes up the Metroparks—closing a six-mile-gap between Ridge and Brecksville Roads in the Metroparks’ all-purpose trail network.


The all-purpose trail is the missing link between the Brecksville Reservation and Mill Stream Run Reservation. The all-purpose trail connects Scenic Park at the north end of the Rocky River Reservation, south through Mill Stream Run Reservation and east to Brecksville Reservation and the Towpath Trail.


Bicyclists and pedestrians can now use all 33 consecutive miles of connected paved off-road, shared-use trails before reaching the Towpath Trail with many neighborhood connections in between.


“People can go from Rocky River Marina and go 33 miles to link up with the Towpath and feel safe and have access to the trails,” says Roszak. “This is something Clevelanders can feel very proud of.”


First People Day is a program that Clevelanders can also feel proud of, Roszak says. The 10-year tradition celebrates Native American stories and culture, working in partnership with the Lake Erie Native American Council (LENAC) to teach about the history of Native Americans in region.


The immersive celebration held at Rocky River Nature Center features LENAC dancers, artists, and speakers who showcase the region’s native cultural traditions and talents.


Although this year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19, Roszak says the recognition of Cleveland’s Native American population is especially important given the social and racial awareness now spurring the name changes of the Washington NFL football team and Cleveland’s baseball team.


“It’s a great event,” says Roszak. “We’re able to amplify the voices of Native Americans who are from Northeast Ohio.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.