The Twinsburg Ledges, possibly the most beautiful and beloved local natural marvel are located in Liberty Park. Widely known for its sublime sandstone ledges, which ascend nearly seventy feet skyward at some points as they pass by small caves, the Ledges are like nothing else in Summit County. In 2011 Ledges Trail opened–offering visitors a scenic 1.1 mile hike, with lovely ferns, lichen and other natural ephemeral in full-view. It is also a popular destination for birding.
Tinkers Creek, named after Captain Joseph Tinker—the chief boatsman in Moses Cleveland’s survey crew, is the largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River, gathering water from 13 sub-watersheds in 4 counties. The creek flows through Summit (including the Township and City), Portage, Geauga, and Cuyahoga counties.
In June 2006, trace amounts of antibiotics, prescription and nonprescription pharmaceuticals, personal-care products and household and industrial chemicals were found all along Tinkers Creek, but luckily in the years proceeding there has been a concerted effort to remedy this environmental crime. According to Twinsburg Naturalist, Stanley Stine: “Tinkers Creek…we’re doing our best (everybody’s doing their best) to clean it up. And someday I’m hoping it’s the Creek that the ancestors of Twinsburg enjoyed, being clean. It’s showing signs of improvement. We have a river otter in it, too many beaver in it, water ducks, the eagles hunt over it when the rivers are frozen over with ice because the creek coming out of seven different waste water treatment plants along its length tends not to freeze because of the warmth of the water being in a building and being cleaned and deposited outside.”
One of the three communities’ 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. The formal dedication took place on April 22, 2001. Prior to the purchase, Twinsburg only owned three hundred acres of open-spaced parkland; now there are over two thousand acres. The process of negotiating with the owner was arduous, as he vacillated over 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 three thousand acres had been the site of an amusement park, a hotel, a railroad, and farms. Some of the owners had toppled trees and straightened a brook. In 2011 Summit County Metro Parks added sixty-six acres to the park using funds obtained through the Trust for Public Land amounting to $1.22 million, which went toward completing access to the park from Ravenna Road. One of the newest additions is 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 are part of the nine-hundred-acre land deal Mayor Katherine Procop brokered with a local landowner. There may be no more beloved natural phenomena in the three communities than the Ledges. It seems as if almost everyone who grew up in the area has a fond childhood memory connected with the natural marvel. It was a popular hangout for kids, teenagers, and families alike. More than just a source of natural beauty and a recreation destination, the Ledges have played a huge part in the history of Twinsburg, and in the determination of its geographical boundaries. For a time all of Twinsburg’s water (village and Township) was obtained from wells located in 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. When you go west towards Macedonia there are ledges right at the 271-82 intersection. And then east are the Liberty Park Ledges,” according to Twinsburg naturalist Stanley Stine.
Possibly the most important aspect of the park is the unusual plant and wildlife that inhabits the acreage. The unique flora include immensely colorful lichen species that are a cross between fungi and algae, and one of a kind in the state of Ohio. A four-toed salamander found in 2003 was considered extremely rare, the only salamander in the state that has four toes on its 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. 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 might inhabit that area as well. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to officially determine and declare that none of these bats were 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, shrimp-like crustacean, have been discovered residing in the caves of Liberty Park. There are dozens of endangered species, plus an assortment of other wildlife: beavers, otters, red-backed salamanders, wood frogs, gray rat snakes, and numerous dragonflies and butterflies.
The park 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 its purchase to be “the legacy project of our community.”
The City of Twinsburg, though relatively young, is a wellspring of history that also offers comfort and familiarity—an area that has blossomed and evolved to include new housing developments, beautiful parks, and hubs of commerce while maintaining picturesque views worthy of a postcard. These views did not spring up overnight via the whims of mayors and city planners, but evolved with the natural passage of time to shape the cityscape we know today. Though it shares nearly 140 years of history with the Township, the city’s own unique history dates back just over sixty years. Unlike other, older villages and towns that were carved from the woods and fields of an untamed wilderness, the City of Twinsburg was created in the twentieth century by an act of political secession. The need to collect taxes from the recently announced Chrysler plant sped things along, prompting the separation of township and city and bringing jobs, other businesses, and a torrent of taxpayers to the area.
Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the square: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family owned businesses, farms, school houses, and church after church sprang up within view. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s took root one-by-one, providing locals with some of the amenities larger cities had to offer, with the comforts of small town familiarity.
When new housing was needed, Glenwood Acres was created to provide it. Lowcost homes, numbering more than four hundred, began springing up in 1956 following the announcement of the new Chrysler plant. Homes would be needed to accommodate the countless new employees looking to minimize their commute to work and keep their families close. Production at the plant would begin in earnest the following year.
With each development and each alteration another farm, wooded area, and orchard would fall beneath the wheels of progress. The growing village reached the critical five thousand head count by the end of 1969, allowing it to acquire cityhood. City managers begat mayors, volunteer firemen begat paid firefighters, and mainstays of business gave way to corporations.
The 1970s would see two unique milestones come to pass: 1976 would mark the nation’s bicentennial as well as the start of Twins Days, a celebration paying homage to the Wilcox brothers, who laid the foundation for what Twinsburg would come to be. Though it began as a community-centered festival with a parade, food, contests, and a parachuting clown named Thunder Chicken, interest in the event would spread.
The new Twinsburg High School opened in January 1999, providing students with a new learning environment when they returned from their winter break. (The “Old School” still stands, though it’s been closed for years.) The park system also received some attention, with Mayor James Karabec securing a letter of intent for the property that would eventually become the three-thousand-acre Liberty Park. The dawning of a new century brought with it many changes: some wanted, some unavoidable. Longtime mainstays like Richner Hardware shuttered their stores in response to big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart eating away at their customer base. Chrysler, the financial backbone of Twinsburg and employer of many, closed during the summer of 2010. Economic ripples from its closure were inevitable, though the blow to the city’s tax revenues was mitigated in no small part by the foresight of former mayor Karabec, who had set in motion a plan to diversify the city’s income stream, knowing it relied too heavily on Chrysler. Mayor Katherine Procop would continue the work begun by Karabec, helping to secure new tenants and diversify city revenues. Among the new tenants operating out of the Cornerstone Business Park (site of the old Chrysler plant) are an Amazon fulfillment center and FedEx.
One of the staples for summer fun in Northeast Ohio near the midpoint of the twentieth century was Lake Plata. Located off Chamberlin Road, not far from the Chrysler plant, the water park was the ideal and idyllic setting for a tranquil summer day’s swim or simply to sunbathe. Lake Plata was utilized for activities as diverse as a fish fry held by the Fraternal Order of Police to swimming lessons for little tykes.
Lake Plata was a source of fun and frivolity for most, but a number people met their demise while swimming in the seemingly safe waters, briefly overshadowing the festivity on innumerable occasions.
One of the most interesting and harrowing events that took place at Lake Plata was the murder of Cleveland financial promoter Mervin Gold. Mr. Gold’s bullet-riddled body was found in the trunk of a car five miles from where Twinsburg residents had heard gunfire at Lake Plata. He had been shot, strangled, and wrapped in a blanket. This was possibly a mob hit, as Gold had purportedly engaged in a heated phone conversation with notorious Cleveland mobster Shondor Birns shortly before his death.
The property was initially owned by Oscar and Helen Cisar, who in turn deeded it to the Plata family. The popular recreational destination stayed in the possession of the Plata family until 1980, when Sylvester Plata was unable to make his mortgage payments and the sixty-five-acre property fell into receivership. Summit County judge Daniel Quillin handled the sale and advertised a minimum bid of $500,000.
As early as 1972 the City of Twinsburg paid $4,000 for an appraisal of Lake Plata in hopes of purchasing the property for the Parks and Recreation Department. When the recreational resource fell into receivership in 1980 the majority of Twinsburg City Council wanted to purchase the land, but Mayor Perici was against acquisition due to numerous unanswered questions. Twinsburg bid $515,000 ($250,000 immediately and $265,000 before January 31, 1981), but Miklos Janosi of Cleveland, part owner of Lake Plata, outbid them by $5,000.
Today Lake Plata remains, but it is no longer a recreational destination. The surrounding land has been redeveloped into a residential neighborhood.
The complete and unedited interview of former Twinsburg Mayor, Katherine Procop. Katherine discusses her background, why she became involved in politics, the creation of Liberty Park, the Chrysler Plant closure, and the death of Officer Joshua Miktarian.
Audio: Katherine Procop on Liberty Park
Former Twinsburg Mayor, Katherine Procop, discusses the formation of Liberty Park, acquisition of the property, and the park’s relationship with Summit Metroparks.
“Twinsburg’s most popular outdoor nature adventure” is the salamander crossing, annually occurring in Center Valley Park. (Almost) every spring since the early 2000s the salamander migration has been documented by Stanley Stine, city of Twinsburg naturalist.
Belonging to the mole salamander family, the spotted salamander lives underground for the vast majority of the year, using holes dug by mice, chipmunks, and even crayfish to get away on a hot summer afternoons or hibernate for the winter. These intriguing, innovative amphibians emerge at the start of each spring scurrying to the same vernal pools in the Twinsburg wetlands to lay their eggs. Spotted salamanders, bespeckled with orangish-yellow spots, must lay their eggs in temporary pools as opposed to permanent bodies of water as the fish that occupy larger bodies of water would devour all the eggs and possibly the adult salamanders as well. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Stine this wondrous natural phenomenon has been witnessed by many residents who otherwise would have been unaware this annual event occurs in their hometown.
The Salamander and Frog Festival, an indoor event that Stine also initiated, precedes the salamander migration. Whereas the crossing adventure is geared towards people of all ages the Salamander and Frog Festival piques the interest and educates wee little ones via games, coloring contests and various other arts and crafts.