Wildlife Conservation Leads As Cleveland Metroparks Celebrates 100 Years
Rhinos, monkeys and other zoo animals often are top of mind when people think of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Fittingly, as part of the Cleveland Metroparks centennial celebration this summer, the zoo will unveil a new brand identity that emphasizes its longstanding commitment to wildlife conservation.
For nearly a century, when residents and visitors looked for fun things to do in Cleveland, they looked to the Cleveland Metroparks. Each year, the parks have welcomed millions of recreation-seekers and inquisitive visitors to its more than 23,000 acres – including the nationally-acclaimed Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. In 2016, the system was honored with the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management for the fourth time.
With its rebranding, the zoo will bring its conservation efforts to the forefront. For the zoo, as for the Cleveland Metroparks system as a whole, that history runs deep, and is a centerpiece of the effort to engage today's visitors.
“When you celebrate 100 years, what you’re really looking at is the legacy that’s been created and what the future looks like,” said Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian M. Zimmerman. “What we’ve done is position the park system to pivot into its next generation of stewardship in three main areas – conservation, education and recreation.”
Among the future physical improvements guests will notice are a new beach house at Edgewater Park, a new pier at Euclid Beach and numerous new trail connections.
People will have the opportunity to attend several free celebratory events courtesy of a hometown partnership between Cleveland Metroparks and KeyBank. The first of five community concerts hosted throughout the Park District kicks off in June, and will feature live performances of music composed over the past 100 years. A fireworks display choreographed to music will be held at Edgewater Park on Saturday, July 22, the eve of Cleveland Metroparks 100th anniversary. “The fireworks displays held at Edgewater Park are something people enjoyed for many years and really wanted us to bring back,” said Kelly Manderfield, Cleveland Metroparks chief marketing officer.
And at the zoo, Cleveland Metroparks and KeyBank have partnered to bring back KeyBank ZooKeys , a popular program with zoo guests that made its original debut in the 1960s. Colorful, animal-shaped ZooKeys will unlock more than two dozen speaker boxes that play recorded messages about animals throughout the zoo.
“With the zoo rebranding, we really brought our wildlife conservation work to the forefront. A big part of that is KeyBank ZooKeys because it allows us to deliver messages about securing the future of wildlife, especially to younger audiences, so these animals will be around for other generations to learn about,” said Manderfield.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Executive Director Christopher Kuhar, PhD., points out that the zoo predates the park system, going back 132 years. It began as Wade Park, a 73-acre tract in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood donated, along with 14 American deer, to the city by Jeptha H. Wade, an industrialist and philanthropist who was one of the founders of Western Union Telegraph.
The Zoo moved to its current site in 1907 to make way for the Cleveland Museum of Art. Over the next three decades, attractions such as Monkey Island and the Sea Lion Pools were added, along with a bear exhibit.
The Park District took over management of the Zoo in 1970, leading to more improvements and accreditation in 1987 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
What followed was a renewed commitment to wildlife conservation on the zoo’s part, including the donation of more than $6.5 million to worldwide conservation efforts since 1995, in partnership with the Cleveland Zoological Society. The zoo also became one of the first AZA institutions to establish a field conservation program.
Kuhar and Manderfield said that work went largely unnoticed, though. Zoo officials learned through a recent survey that fewer than 50 percent of respondents were aware of the conservation efforts, although a majority indicated that they believe such work is important.
Further market research studies helped guide zoo officials through the rebranding, which includes the creation of a new graphic identity and tagline, “Securing a Future for Wildlife.” The Zoo also maintains a website, futureforwildlife.org, and the social media hashtag #futureforwildlife, which empower guests to learn more and take action, Manderfield said.
One important goal of the centennial celebration is to acknowledge why improvements like the rebranding are a vital part of the zoo’s evolution, Kuhar said.
“One of the reasons we’re excited about our future is because we have an opportunity to emphasize conservation and science education with our visitors and through our programs with Cleveland schools,” Kuhar said.
The centennial festivities will recall Cleveland Metroparks roots. It was 1905 when Cleveland City Parks engineer William Stinchcomb recognized that unless steps were taken to preserve the ring of green spaces encircling the city, they would likely disappear in the face of development.
“Cleveland Metroparks is one of this region’s greatest natural assets,” said Matt Wyner, KeyBank Cleveland Retail Leader. “Attracting millions of visitors every year, it has become a destination for all generations to experience and make memories. As Cleveland’s hometown bank we are honored to partner in celebration of Cleveland Metroparks centennial and look forward to a hundred more.”
Visit Cleveland Metroparks to learn more.