Walks kick off at 5 p.m. at Summit Lake Community Center
— The Summit Lake neighborhood is one of those areas in Akron with a forgotten history and preconceived notions from outsiders that aren’t always accurate.
About 100 years ago the lake was graced by an amusement park, Summit Beach Park, that would draw crowds by the thousands. The park closed in 1958, and while the area saw the boom of the rubber industry in Akron, which greatly expanded the population as people came here to fill the once-plentiful job openings, this neighborhood has since experienced decline.
Today it is an area that struggles and is defined by the USDA as a food desert. But it also has a strong sense of community, partially orchestrated by organizations such as OPEN M, South Street Ministries, Catholic Worker and Let’s Grow Akron, which have been ingrained into the area for over 20 years.
There is a diverse religious influence, too, all of which seem to share the same goal – community outreach, bringing people together, feeding people, providing jobs and connecting people to resources. The Catholic Worker provides several community meals each week, shelters and cares for the homeless at the Peter Maurin Center and several hospitality homes in the neighborhood.
The Akron Masjid and Watlao Siriwathanaram Buddhist Temple call Summit Lake home, as do multiple denominations of Christian churches. Many of these places of worship offer food, clothing and other essential services.
The Summit Lake Community Center provides sports and fitness programs for all ages, hosts meetings for recovery and re-entry groups, the Summer Lunch Program and a variety of other helpful programs and services. Next door to the community center, the recently constructed Reach Opportunity Center, home to the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA), is a space for early childhood education and youth programs, workforce development, special interest workshops, support groups, family events and more.
South Street Ministries and S.W.A.G. (Students With a Goal) provide after school support and mentoring for elementary through high school students during the school year followed by Summer Camp and Summer Youth Employment opportunities.
Let’s Grow Akron supports and maintains over 20 community gardens and transformed vacant lots in the Summit Lake neighborhood. Its goal is to beautify spaces and provide good healthy food to the blighted area. Miss Julie’s Kitchen also has three large gardens in the neighborhood. Her gardens supply food for her vegan restaurant on South Main Street and her presence at several area farmers’ markets. Youth gardening, urban agriculture, food canning and beekeeping programs, Talks in the Garden and weekly farmers’ markets all take place throughout the growing season in Summit Lake.
And now there’s art! Five paintings have been temporarily installed in the neighborhood as part of Akron Art Museum’s Inside Out Program, hosted by the Akron Art Museum. The Downtown Laundromat was recently “bombed” with a painted mural by Arts Lift and Art Bomb Brigade. The City Repair Project is supporting efforts to create a street mural, and a 3-D mural created by neighborhood artist Stephanie Leonardi and teens participating in the Lock 3 Summer Arts Experience will be installed this month at the Peter Maurin Center. The Reporter, a weekly African American newspaper is also located in the building.
The Summit Lake neighborhood would like to invite residents to participate in its upcoming Akron2Akron neighborhood walking tour Aug. 30 as we showcase the area. Three walks will be conducted starting at 5, 5:30 and the last one leaving at 6 p.m. Participants are encouraged to park at the Summit Lake Community Center: 380 W. Crosier St.
The city of Akron’s trolley will transport groups from the community center to the starting place of the walk at West Long Street and Edison Avenue. Each walk is anticipated to last a little over an hour, ending back at the Summit Lake Community Center, which is also the location of the Summit Lake Neighborhood Farmers’ Market. Affordable, locally grown produce and products, cooking demonstrations, music and outdoor activities are offered at the market every Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 4.
The walk is free and open to the public.
(Editor’s note: Lisa Nunn, director of Let’s Grow Akron, helped write this article.)