National Park Friends Alliance meeting in Cleveland allows officials to show off CVNP
The National Park Friends Alliance is meeting in Cleveland this week. Park officials are getting to show off Cuyahoga Valley National Park on a national stage.
The nonprofit Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park is hosting more than 250 national park leaders from across the country. The four-day conference includes field trips to showcase the park and lessons about the history of CVNP, according to the Conservancy. Superintendent Lisa Petit started the lesson with the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in 1969.
"We've overcome kind of this adversity in this region," Petit said, "and we were really born out of an environmental justice issue."
CVNP's designation as a national recreation area in 1974 and then as a national park in 2000 has allowed for conservation and remediation, Petit said.
“Taking it from serious degradation up to something that is a true gem of the National Park Service for the people," Petit said.
The state of the Cuyahoga River centered the conservation work, Petit said.
"The story of this park has been about community, about stakeholders, about partnerships in recovering that very very damaged and polluted river and the landscape along that river as well," Petit said.
The story of CVNP is one of environmental activism, Petit said.
"It is a story truly of people and communities and the passion of people to protect the area that they love," Petit said.
Conservancy President and CEO Deb Yandala said “for the people” is the message she wants other park leaders to take away from CVNP.
“To see how we’ve really connected with urban populations so that was really important to us to be able to showcase that," Yandala said.
Petit and Yandala also highlighted the partnership between the park and the Conservancy.
“The strength of the partnership between Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a model for the rest of the park, and we’ve seen that time and time again," Petit said. "And it’s being acknowledged here in this meeting – in this conference right now.”
Park officials are also showcasing the work both the park and the Conservancy do to connect with diverse populations who may never have been to a national park before, Yandala said.
"That's part of the equity message of national parks," Yandala said. "These lands belong to everybody, not just people who may choose to or can afford to frankly travel across the country to experience them."
The goal of CVNP and the Conservancy is to make the park accessible and equitable for everyone, Yandala said.
"There may be people who never get to the wild western parks or up to Acadia, but they'll get to Cuyahoga Valley every day," Yandala said. "And that's just as important."