James Seikel is back in Akron and couldn’t be happier.
The 51-year-old Seikel, born and raised in West Akron, is the new manager of Portage Lakes State Park. He also oversees the hydraulics that manage water levels in the lakes and in the Ohio & Erie Canal for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The park, popular with boaters and anglers, covers 2,034 acres on eight lakes in southern Summit County, plus 411 acres on land. It gets nearly 1.1 million visitors per year.
Seikel came to Akron from Lake Milton State Park in Mahoning County about a month ago. He is working from an office in downtown Akron next to the historic canal.
“I’ve been very busy,” he said. “I’m been trying to get my feet on the ground and learn what I need to know about the Portage Lakes.”
He has been meeting with the grass-roots Portage Lakes Advisory Council and the Friends of Portage Lakes State Park.
There have been renewed discussions on developing a small tall-grass prairie as a new environmental education feature at the main park area off Manchester Road (state Route 93) in New Franklin.
One of his most immediate projects has been to take a wheeled measuring device to walk the four hiking trails at the park. Seikel became aware that the mileage listed on park brochures and on park signs do not match in some cases. He wants to be sure park visitors have correct information.
Seikel also is dealing with a burgeoning cormorant population around the lakes that will require his attention over the next few weeks.
He intends to meet with the park’s campground hosts — volunteers who assist at the 74 sites at Nimisila Reservoir in the city of Green.
Seikel said the main issue in managing a park is to provide for the safety and welfare of its visitors. He will oversee a staff of two full-time workers, one 11-month worker, a part-time nine-month worker and seven seasonal employees.
The new manager said he is very familiar with the Portage Lakes because his family had a boat on the lakes when he was in his teens and early 20s.
“Cruising the lakes” was a popular thing for the Seikel family and other boaters, he recalled.
Seikel is a 1979 graduate of Walsh Jesuit High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1984 from Ohio State University in parks and recreation administration. In 1994, he earned a master’s degree in education/sports management from Cleveland State University.
Previous experience includes working as a counselor at the Catholic Youth Organization’s Camp Christopher in Bath Township and as a seasonal employee for the city of Akron’s Recreation Bureau.
He also has worked for the cities of Wooster, Massillon, Twinsburg and Whitehall.
Seikel joined the Ohio state park system in November 2009 and was assigned to Cleveland Lakefront State Park, the most-used park in the state system, and Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor.
He and his wife, Sharon, live in Cuyahoga Falls and have three grown children.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.