It’s not too often one comes face to face with foresight, but it can be found in abundance at Liberty Park, a hidden treasure in the northeast corner of Summit County. Managed jointly by Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, and the city of Twinsburg, the park’s approximately 2,000 acres includes both towering sandstone ledges and sensitive wetlands.
A visit on a recent, blustery fall afternoon began at the Ledges Trail, which opened two years ago. The moderately difficult, 1.1-mile loop was well worth the effort, offering glimpses of 80-foot sandstone ledges and, eventually, Glacier Cave, similar in size to Ice Box Cave at Virginia Kendall Park in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of my favorite hiking spots.
What’s striking about the Twinsburg ledges is their heavy covering of ferns, mosses and lichens, a coating of intense green that looks as if it were sprayed on, but it’s real. The hike continues to a wetlands area, with an extensive boardwalk, before heading back to the parking area.
Our small group of hikers stopped briefly at the recreation area, managed by the city of Twinsburg, before continuing south to tackle the slightly longer (1.6 mile) Buttonbush Trail, located in the more recently acquired conservation area of the park.
The trail is a fooler, starting on an old access road for oil wells. It continues on meticulously constructed boardwalks that wind between two buttonbush swamps, so named for a flowering shrub that grows in shallow water. The swamps would be totally inaccessible without the boardwalks.
Construction of the boardwalks is only part of the sustained effort and financial commitment it has taken to preserve what is now Liberty Park. The area was identified by the Olmsted brothers, famed landscape architects, in a parks plan that goes back to 1925, just four years after Metro Parks was founded. Liberty Park has been in the planning stages for some 15 years, beginning with the acquisition of the ledges area (about 900 acres) by the city of Twinsburg.
Work on the park is far from over. A nature center and a pavilion with a massive outdoor fireplace are in the works for the ledges area, and there are plans to provide limited access to a conservation area that lies to the south of state Route 82.
This time of year, a walk (or a run, or a bike ride) through the park usually takes my mind off the approaching election. But I couldn’t help thinking about the support voters have shown for the Metro Parks, which has a renewal levy on the Nov. 5 ballot. Without vision and a steady funding stream, Liberty Park would still be a part of an old map instead of what it has become, a green oasis.
— STEVE HOFFMAN