The Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s new Boston Mill Visitor Center is scheduled to open in October.
Construction at the historic building is moving along, with foundation work completed and the main building enclosed at Riverview and Boston Mills roads, said Arrye Rosser, interpretive and education specialist for CVNP. The center is on the west side of the Cuyahoga River, just a few hundred feet from the current visitor center at the Boston Store on the east side of the river.
The Conservancy for the CVNP has raised $6.85 million for the project and is managing the planning, design and construction.
Construction includes new parking areas, a deck overlooking the river, restrooms and relocation of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train depot to the south side of Boston Mills Road.
Bernie Charnas of Brecksville has been a Trailblazing volunteer since 2007 and works with law enforcement to keep the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and other trails safe.
Although Charnas said he was skeptical a new visitor center was needed, he said more out-of-own people visit the park and the old visitor center at Boston Store was too small.
“There wasn’t enough room to tell the story,” Charnas said. “There are so many ways to educate out-of-town visitors about the park.”
The 1905 building was a store and residential property once owned by the Akron Cleveland Bag Co. The two-story building will have stairs and an elevator.
The front doors will open to a visitor desk and sales area with two rooms on each side, said Jennie Vasarhelyi, chief of interpretation, education and visitor services for CVNP. It will feature a topographical model of the park, along with art and information about the area.
“The two end rooms give an overview of the park and highlights what to do here,” Vasarhelyi said. “We want to remind people we are a national park between Akron and Cleveland.”
On the second floor, the big events of the park are highlighted with interactive exhibits. Families can discover the history and how the valley has transformed through time, Vasarhelyi said.
Visitors won’t have to wait for all of the improvements. New Towpath Wayside Exhibits are in place along the towpath describing information and history at those sites or about the park in general.
There also are sculptures in different locations in the CVNP: a mule named Blossom is at the Canal Exploration Center on Canal Road in Valley View; an eagle is at the Brecksville train depot; a little play boat is at the Boston Store on Boston Mills Road; a calf and two chickens, Winnie and Verdie, at the Hunt House on Bolanz Road; and a beaver, otter and muskrat at the Ira Road parking lot.
Audio stations have been added in four locations: Hunt House on Bolanz Road, Jaite Mill near Vaughn and Riverview roads, Station Road Bridge and Wilson Feed Mill north of Frazee House.
John Bernhard of Stow said he’s been a volunteer trainman for five years on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. He likes that the visitor center has information on the history of the railroad.
“It’s an important part of the history, and we talk about it on the train,” Bernhard said. “From Indian canoes, to the canal and railroads, the different phases worked together.”
The CVNP began as a National Recreation Area in 1974 but was re-designated as a national park in 2000 with 2.2 million recreational visitors in 2018.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org