Park director outlines current status and future goals of Bath parks

by Laura Bednar

The annual Bath state of the parks address covered the history of township parks, plans for North Fork Preserve and a variety of birds that annually migrate through Bath.

Trustee Elaina Goodrich gave an overview of each park in the township.

Four acres of Bath Hill Park was purchased in 1979 to stop annexation and another 12 acres was bought for a park in 1999. It now includes tennis courts, a trail, playground and picnic area among other amenities.

The township purchased 404 acres in 1997 and an additional seven in 2005 that became Bath Nature Preserve. The University of Akron established a field station onsite in 2002 and signed an agreement with Bath to use the preserve for research and education at $25,000 a year for 15 years. That lease was renewed for 25 years in 2017.

Park Director Alan Garner outlined improvements made throughout the parks, including informational signs in Bath Community Park and Bath Nature Preserve; crack sealing and re-coloring of the tennis and basketball courts at Bath Hill Park; and the solar system walk, community garden expansion and native flower bed installation at Bath Nature Preserve.

Over the past six years, the number of events booked at Bath parks ranged from 1,100 to almost 1,500, aside from 2020, which only saw 775 events due to the pandemic. “The parks continued to be a place for people to enjoy nature and connect safely,” Garner said.

North Fork Preserve

Goodrich outlined the acquisition and status of North Fork Preserve of Bath, 4300 Everett Rd. The Trust for Public Land filed a Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant request for $1.65 million for the 78.3-acre property in 2018. The following year, the land was transferred to Bath. Several committees were formed to review the wetlands, flora, fauna, streams and history of the property. In 2021, the Environmental Design Group planned a three-loop trail through the acreage. Ryba Architects of Richfield created a concept for the onsite home.

Goodrich said the township has received several grants to transform the property: $2,500 from the Bath Community Fund for trail markers and a $5,000 Summit County Community grant for the entry sign and kiosk.

So far this year, the township has applied for five grants to cover the cost of creating the three-loop trail, adding parking and installing two trail heads.

Bath birds

Bath Parks Board volunteer John Landis said Bath Nature Preserve is the number four birding hotspot in Summit County, according to The 2022 year-to-date birding update stated 138 unique bird species were recorded at the preserve, with 102 recorded in May. Landis said some of the consistent “ground-nesting” birds seen at BNP are the bobolink, eastern meadowlark, savannah sparrow and American woodcock. In his presentation, Landis wrote, “I recently gave a tour to birders who had spent a week at … the May ‘birding capital of the USA’ and they didn’t see any of the … species, but we saw or heard them all at the BNP.”

He added that a variety of ducks migrate through Bath, including the canvasback, ruddy and mallard. The township also saw the warbler migration in May, with 25 of the 38 species in North America passing through or breeding in Ohio, according to Landis.

For more information on birds, Landis suggested the “Bath Bird Blitz Book” written by Landis, his son Alexander and Dr. Lara Roketenetz from the University of Akron.

Roketenetz said classes from Revere schools have taken trips to the field station and the “Bath Bird Blitz Book” was distributed to Bath Elementary fourth-graders.

Future of parks

Garner announced the goals for each of the parks. The parks department plans to use GPS units and other software to update park trail maps. Bath Baseball Park will have new foul poles at one field and a rehabilitated concession stand. At Bath Community Park, the football scoreboard and pickle ball court nets will be upgraded and the parking lot resurfaced. The North Fork Trail will be crack sealed at Bath Nature Preserve and the Regal Beagle shelter will be rehabilitated and painted.

At North Fork Preserve, Garner said the house and barn will be renovated, and phase one of the trail construction will begin with the objective of opening the site to the public this year. ∞