Although Metroparks began in the most trying of times, in some ways the timing couldn’t have been better. Much of the labor was a provision of the “New Deal,” specifically from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In the early years, thousands of people were put to work building Metroparks at a point in history when Toledo was devastated by the Great Depression. For perspective, in 1930 the Merchants and Manufacturers Association estimated that there were as many as 18,000 Toledoans out of work. In the depths of the depression, Toledo industry suffered an unemployment rate of almost 80%.
The 1930s and The Great Depression were particularly difficult for Toledo and the region, but in hindsight, the work undertaken to build Metroparks helped save a city. The fruits of that era and of that heroic effort to create Metroparks have contributed to Lucas County’s health and prosperity for generations, and will continue to do so.
In 1930, The Toledo Metropolitan Board leased land along the former Maumee River side cut from the state of Ohio leading to the creation of Side Cut Metropark. During the quiet period that followed, land was acquired leading to five additional parks: Providence (with Side Cut, in 1930), Oak Openings Preserve (1931), Pearson (1934), Bend View (1935) and Farnsworth (1937). By 1939, Metroparks surpassed 1,000 acres of land with the acquisition of a 273-acre property at Oak Openings Preserve
Metroparks acquired additional acreage at Oak Openings Preserve, and in 1949 purchased 223 acres of land in Richfield Township to establish Secor Metropark. By 1949, with the addition of Secor, Metroparks landholding totaled 3,744 acres.
No new parks were established in the 1950s, but additional land acquisition at Oak Openings Preserve and Secor increased Metroparks landholdings to 4,345 acres by 1959.
Metroparks growth was focused primarily on land acquisition. In 1963 Metroparks established and later expanded Swan Creek Preserve in Toledo. Land acquisition for Swan Creek Preserve and the expansion of Oak Openings Preserve and Secor increased Metroparks landholdings to 4,925 acres by 1969.
Expansion continued throughout the decade with acreage increases at Oak Openings Preserve, Secor, Side Cut and Swan Creek Preserve. In 1971, the park district’s name was changed from Toledo Metropolitan Park District to Metropolitan Park District of the Toledo Area to reflect the district’s countywide focus. Perhaps the most notable event of the decade was the 1975 purchase of the 475-acre Stranahan Estate, leading to the creation of Wildwood Preserve, Metroparks most visited park, in Sylvania Township. By 1979, Metroparks landholdings had expanded to just over 6,000 acres.
No new parks were established in the 1980s. However, in addition to expansion at landholdings at Oak Openings Preserve, Side Cut, Providence, Farnsworth, Swan Creek Preserve and Bend View, in 1982 Metroparks took over management responsibilities of the Fallen Timbers Monument from the Ohio Historical Society. By 1989, expansion of existing parklands increased Metroparks total landholdings to 6,492 acres.
With the donation of the 67-acre Anderson property along Swan Creek on the western edge of the City of Toledo, and the expansion of parklands at Oak Openings Preserve, Bend View, Farnsworth, Swan Creek Preserve and Wildwood Preserve, Metroparks landholdings grow to 6,924 acres.
From the year 2000 to present, a number of key acquisitions, partnerships and new management agreements have set the stage for a new era of Metroparks
2000 Purchase of Fallen Timbers Battlefield; purchase of former Toledo House of Corrections, which will become Blue Creek Metropark
2001 Purchase of 114 additional acres at Fallen Timbers Battlefield
2002 Expansion of multiple parks including a 303-acre northern expansion of Pearson
2003 Innitiated acquisition plan to establish the Oak Openings Corridor between Oak Openings Preserve and Secor
2004 Acquisition of the 215-acre Nona France Quarry as part of Blue Creek Metropark; donation of Virgina Belt property, Brookwood; expansion of Oak Openings Corridor and multiple parks
2005 Expansion of Oak Openings Corridor
2006 Acquisition of Middlegrounds; expansion of Oak Openings Corridor
2007 Acquisition of parkland near Reynolds Corners; expansion of Oak Openings Corridor and Fallen Timbers Battlefield
2008 Acquisition of 987-acre Howard Farms Property in eastern Lucas County; expansion of Oak Openings Corridor, Fallen Timbers Battlefield, and Blue Creek resulting in acreage exceeding 10,000 acres
2009 Expansion of Oak Openings Corridor, Secor and Providence
2010 Expansion of Oak Openings Corridor and Fallen Timbers Battlefield
2011 Acquisition of Chess Circle Trail with assistance from the Trust for Public Land and other agencies; expansion of Oak Openings Corridor and Side Cut. Acreage surpasses 11,000 acres
2012 Expansion of Oak Openings Greenway Corridor, Secor and Fallen Timbers Battlefield
2013 Expansion of Oak Openings Greenway Corridor and Swan Creek Preserve
2015 Opening of Wiregrass Lake, Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Westwinds Metroparks; final acquisition of Keil Farm property, bringing Metroparks land holdings at just over 12,000 acres.
2016 Middlegrounds opens - the second Metropark in the City of Toledo and the first downtown
2019 Visitation to all Metroparks surpasses 6 million
2020 During the Coronavirus pandemic with many staff working remotely, Metroparks had an historic year: