One of the three community’s greatest natural assets is Liberty Park. The park contains a moss-capped landscape of slump rocks, vertical crevices and sedimentary layers, rock cliffs, colossal boulders and a cave that is more spacious than some of the homes townspeople grew up in.
Initially Liberty Park was privately owned. It was the ever progressive-minded Mayor Karabec who realized the potential of procuring the park. During Karabec’s administration he composed a letter of intent (including price) to purchase Liberty Park from its previous owner, but the procurement of the park wasn’t finalized until Mayor Procop was in office. Prior to the purchase, Twinsburg only owned 300 acres of open-spaced park land, now there is over 2,000 acres. The process of negotiating with the owner was arduous as he vacillated to and fro whether to sell to the city or a land developer, the latter being considerably more profitable.
Ultimately the city purchased the property for $11 million. It was the catalyst for Summit County to continue purchasing land in the area, creating a link between Twinsburg and Tinker Creek State Park. Twinsburg owns the land, but the Metro Parks manage Liberty Park, helping to preserve the Ledges and the wetlands.
Over the years, the park’s 3,000 acres have hosted an amusement park, a hotel, a railroad and farms. Some of the owners toppled trees and straightened a brook. In 2011 Summit County Metro Parks added 66 acres to the park via monies obtained through the Trust for Public Land amounting to $1.22 million, which went towards completing access to the park from Ravenna Road. One of the newest additions: Liberty Park Nature Center, a $3 million facility constructed by the Summit County Metro Parks. Visitors are greeted by an inanimate and presumably affable life-sized black bear upon arriving at the center.
The Ledges resonate with the residents of the area. It seems almost everyone has a fond memory connected with the Ledges.
”Significance of ledges around Twinsburg is that Twinsburg sits in a pocket surrounded by ledges. South to where the Cleveland Clinic is located, there are ledges running behind it. You go west towards Macedonia there are ledges right at 271-82 intersection. And then east are the Liberty Park Ledges” (Stine).
Possibly the most important aspect of the park is the unusual plant and wildlife that inhabit the acreage. Unique species include lichen species, a cross between fungi and algae, that are immensely colorful, and one of a kind in the state of Ohio. Four-toed salamander was found in 2003, at the time considered extremely rare, and the only salamander in the state that have four toes on hind legs, instead of the usual five.
The park is home to endangered reddish brown Indiana bats, which almost assuredly will not bite the necks of unsuspecting visitors thus morphing them into bloodsucking vampires. Due to the presence of these bats in Liberty Park’s caves, construction in the nearby vacated Chrysler complex was postponed as it was believed some members of the endangered species may inhabit that area as well. U.S. Fish & Wildlife had to officially determine and declare none of the bats are in an area before trees could be cleared and the area developed. It was discovered that a number of bats suffered from white-nose syndrome, leading to their untimely demise. (As of 2012, 5.7 million North American bats have relinquished their mortal coil due to this incurable disease.)
Other rare creatures, including a minuscule, shrimplike crustacean have been discovered residing in the caves of Liberty Park. There are tens of endangered species, plus an assortment of other wildlife: beavers, otters, red-backed salamanders, wood frogs, gray rat snakes, and numerous dragonflies and butterflies.
It also serves as one of the most popular destinations for birders in Northeast Ohio; in fact it was designated as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society.
Liberty Park continues to be one of the most popular destinations in the three communities and a local treasure. Former Mayor Procop considers the purchase to be “the legacy project of our community.”