On November 6, I met Rich Horton at Sippo Lake Park to attend the Interpreter and Naturalist Gathering. Dr. Mark Tebeau had asked me to attend, and I was glad to do so to honor the work of our RRR partners, Jennie Vasarhelyi and Steven Roberts.
As I listened to Jennie, I looked around the room at the faces of other attendees. They were captured by what Jennie was saying about the importance of the Canalway and all the work that had been done to preserve it and promote it.
My mind drifted to one of the first recruiting meetings Dr. Tebeau and I hosted. It was at the Club House at Sippo Lake Park. There, Sarah Buehl shared the dream of a new new building just across the lake. And here, I was, three years later realizing the dream.
I felt the excitement and enthusiasm in the room grow as speaker after speaker gave updates on completion of sections of the towpath. I was transported back to our visit to Mittal Steel Plant as I listened to the work being completed around Steelyard Commons. I remembered our work at the J. E. Reeves House and Magnolia and the Perkins Mansion as other speakers gave their reports.
The tourr of the grounds brought back memories of wetlands at Shaker Lakes where we began our study of the Doan Brook. I stood on the walkway looking across the lake to the clubhouse where learning about the canal began for me. Then, we went inside to the Congressman Ralph Regula Canalway Center Exhibit Hall. A young guide walked us though the interactive displays and explained how tours of children related to the exhibits. We also toured the distance learning room with its high-tech potential to bring science and nature into the classrooms.
The luncheon speaker was Stephen H. Paschen, Assistant Professor and University Archivist, Kent State University. His topic was "History and Nature are Inseparable!" He showed us slides of Akron before the canal days, during the canal days, and after. We saw Cascade Park and the skeleton on a canal boat. He showed us images of actual canal boats and the Saint Helena at Canal Fulton. The final part of Paschen's talk focused on collecting oral histories. He talked about his own work of gathering oral histories and he mentioned thebook he'd written. I was very surprised when I checked Amazon for the title of his book. Paschen has written a number of books including: CATCHING STORIES: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO ORAL HISTORY and SPEAKING OF SUMMIT: AN ORAL HISTORY HANDBOOK and SHOOTING THE CHUTES: AMUSEMENT PARKS TO REMEMBER.
The four concurrent sessions in the afternoon were: "Canalway Nuts and Bolts: Where am I, where is everyone else, and how is it all interconnected?" "Managing Interpreters: Tools and tricks for helping your staff combine site and Canalway Interpretation" Creating Innovative Programs Using Canalway Interpretive Themes" and "Nature in the Canalway: A resource for Naturalists"
My mind retraced all we'd done during the three years. I was amazed by how far we'd come in our understanding of the canalway and the various ways to teach place-based history. I thought about Nordonia High School initiating a new course, "Village Voyages," based Steve Teta's lessons.
Of course, I came back to Amy Sumen's comment after the very first RRR workshop. "The Ohio & Erie Canal is right in my back yard, and I never knew it!" Her comment reflects the way we all felt about our time in Cuyahoga National Park, in Zoar, in Dover, in Wooster, in Cleveland. It has all been such a wonderful journey.
I smiled as I remember Mickey Krivak's story of a parent/teacher conference. "Ever since you started going to those Rivers, Roads and Rails workshops, my son likes history. He never liked history before."
Ah! Isn't that why we did it? Hasn't it all be great?