TWINSBURG: A black bear wintered in northern Summit County in 2010-2011, marking the first time one has lived in the Akron-Cleveland area in recent decades.
A stuffed black bear — not the same one — will be in the spotlight when a new $3 million nature center is completed in Liberty Park by Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.
Construction on the Liberty Park Nature Center is likely to begin in April or May, said Lisa King, chief of planning and development for the park district.
Work could take up to a year, but it’s possible that construction in the Twinsburg Ledges Area could be expedited and might be wrapped earlier, she said.
The rustic center, with heavy wood timbers and 3,970 square feet, is about one-third the size of the Seiberling Nature Realm off Smith Road in Akron. It will be the park district’s second nature center in Summit County.
The park district is working with Peninsula Architects on the building design. Environmental Design Group of Akron is handling site design. Parma-based Second Nature Fabricators is in charge of the exhibits that will go into the new building.
Exhibits will highlight the park’s distinctive geology, King said. There are also plans for an exhibit looking at “Life Along the Ledges,” the park’s sandstone cliffs, and another focusing on water and its movement.
Some other exhibits will change seasonally, King said.
There are plans for animal tracks and interpretation in the concrete walkways leading from the parking lot to the nature center.
The wood-sided building, at 9999 Liberty Road, will measure 49 feet by 57 feet. It will be 22 feet high. Key features of the building and adjacent space will include:
■ A large front porch, fireplace, exhibits and space for public programs.
■ A new picnic shelter.
■ A small amphitheater for up to 30 people.
■ Two new, short trails, added in the old farm fields adjacent to the center.
■ Geothermal heat and natural ventilation with several windows.
The building is situated across a tree line from the already built parking lot. The new center also will serve as a gateway to the nearby Twinsburg Ledges with cliffs that are up to 80 feet high.
Liberty Park has nearly 1½ miles of ledges: the more spectacular Bennett Ledges to the north and the slightly lower, biologically significant McDonald Ledges to the south, complete with five bat caves.
The 1.1-mile Ledges Trail was opened by Metro Parks in October 2011 in the northwest corner of the park. The park district built the trail in 2009, but there was no public access until a quarter-mile-long entrance road and parking lot were built in 2011 at a cost of nearly $1 million.
Liberty Park, jointly operated by Metro Parks and the city of Twinsburg, covers 1,908 acres in Twinsburg, Twinsburg Township and Reminderville.
The city manages a 100-acre recreational complex off Liberty Road with ball fields and a playground. The park district manages two trails and the Pond Brook Conservation Area off state Route 82 near the Summit-Portage county line.
The new building is being funded by the park district. It is being built on city-owned land.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.