The CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK (formerly the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area) was created by an act of Congress sponsored by Rep. John F. Seiberling and signed by Pres. Gerald Ford on 27 Dec. 1974. It designated 32,000 acres along 22 mi. of the CUYAHOGA RIVER in southern Cuyahoga and northern Summit counties as the third urban park in the Natl. Park system; the Golden Gate Natl. Recreation Area in San Francisco and the Gateway Natl. Recreation Area in New York City were established in 1972. The northern boundary of the park is at Rockside Rd. in VALLEY VIEW. The CVNRA was established to preserve the "scenic, recreational, natural, and historic" values of undeveloped land between Cleveland and Akron, land threatened by commercial development and rapid population growth. Established officially on 26 June 1975, the CVNRA includes such already developed recreational facilities as the Virginia Kendall Park, Blossom Music Ctr., and Hale Farm & Village. Congress authorized $34.5 million for land acquisition over a 5-year period, and under the direction of Superintendent Wm. C. Birdsell, the Natl. Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers embarked on a controversial land-buying spree that angered many people residing in the park area and politicians. By 1980 only 60% of the land had been acquired, at a cost of more than $42 million, and the Park Service had bought 306 of the 750 homes in the park area.
By the fall of 1980, CVNRA was offering visitors' biking and nature tours, programs for children, concerts, and craft programs. After Birdsell's death on 18 Aug. 1980, Lewis S. Albert became the superintendent of CVNRA. Under his direction and that of the Reagan administration in Washington, policies at CVNRA were changed. The CVNRA stopped purchasing land not needed for park purposes and sought other ways to preserve it. By Nov. 1984 the Natl. Park Service had bought 14,444 acres of land for CVNRA for $78 million and had plans to buy 3,000 additional acres. John Debo has served as park superintendent since 1988.
The CVNRA continued to expand its offering of cultural and recreational activities in the 1980s. Although it hosted the Natl. Folk Festival from 1983-85, the Folk Festival left in 1985. Soon after, the Park Service began sponsoring its own event, the Cuyahoga Valley Heritage Festival, held annually in August. The CVNRA also focused on the rehabilitation of historic structures and Park Service facilities. The Canal Visitor Center, located at Hillside and Canal roads in Valley View, was renovated in 1984. The Park Service also spent $2 million to renovate 50 other historic structures.
In the 1990s the CVNRA opened the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Ctr. The towpath, completed in Oct. 1993, parallels remnants of the canal and the Cuyahoga River. Opened in May 1994, the Environmental Education Ctr. serves elementary-age students from 1,800 schools around the northeastern Ohio region. In 1994 visitation surpassed 3.3 million visitors. By the time it celebrated its 20th anniversary in Sept. 1995, the CVNRA had an annual operating budget of $6.5 million and 139 employees. In October 2000, the park was renamed the Cuyahoga Valley National Park by an act of Congress.