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There's new of hope for Akron's Summit Lake neighborhood; vision calls for $8 million investment

Posted at 4:32 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 23:15:56-05

AKRON, Ohio — It was once known as Akron's "Million Dollar Playground," a nickname for Summit Beach Park, a popular amusement park that opened in 1917 and closed in the 50s.

But in recent years, the Summit Lake neighborhood has faced struggles, including abandoned homes, break-ins, blight and some residents feeling ignored.

Akron leaders are hoping to create a new vision for the area near downtown with a plan that calls for millions of dollars in investments and improvements.

The Summit Lake Vision Plan is being developed through the Akron Civic Commons, the city of Akron, Summit Metro Parks and the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.

You can take a look at the detailed plan here.

The city of Akron has committed $1 million to the neighborhood each of the next three years. Dan Rice, the president and CEO of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, said an additional $5 million is expected through state, federal and private funds.

"What we're really trying to do here is work with neighborhood residents to make sure their voices are heard, valued and recognized," Rice said. "The lake is coming back as we speak. It will become a destination."

Plans include removing vegetation and building a boat launch on the north shore. Other ideas include a fountain in the lake, an activity area on the west side, a marble overlook and a boardwalk.

Rice said a large green space area on the west side of the lake is ripe for potential retail development.

"There is not a place to get a cup of coffee in this neighborhood, can't get a sandwich. There is not drug store. There's no dry cleaners," Rice said.

Ellen Lander, a spokesman for Mayor Dan Horrigan, said $1 million in the 2020 capital budget is focused on a permanent Summit Lake loop trail, the north shore activity area and the west gateway entrance.

"We are working with the OECC and all the the Akron Civic Common partners to find and secure necessary funding for all elements of the vision plan over the coming years," Lander said.

Rice feels the area has been "abused and neglected" with the fabric of neighborhoods torn apart, in part, due to highway construction.

"These are neighborhoods that have just been basically cut up and divided. In some ways, it's actually environmental racism," he said.

Some improvements have already been made, including a pavilion, benches and grills along the lake near the Summit Lake Community Center.

The Summit Metro Parks is also working on a $1.2 million dollar nature center at the old pump house. Currently, there is a smaller center located in the Reach Opportunity Center.

Catera Davis, 19, works at the nature center and lives in the neighborhood. She has a dream for new housing in the area and is excited about a fresh future for Summit Lake.

"It doesn't work if we have all these community partners and people are dreaming big for us if we're not dreaming that same big dream ourselves," Davis said.