Women’s History Month: A Pioneer for CVNP

If you love the Conservancy and visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Sue Klein is a name you should know! In honor of Women’s History Month, we recently caught up with Sue to talk about why CVNP means so much to her and to discuss the amazing work she did to help make sure the park was preserved for generations to come.

Sue grew up skiing in Yosemite and attending girl scout camp in the high sierras of California, her home state. In 1966, she moved to Akron and heard that Cuyahoga Valley was being proposed for National Park Status. Through the Akron Junior League, a local chapter of a national organization that promotes volunteer efforts and the development of women, Sue became a board member of the Cuyahoga Valley Park Federation (CVPF), the support group for the National Park Legislation. As a board member, she was given the opportunity to testify with Joan Holmes from the Cleveland Junior League at a Congressional hearing held at Blossom. “We were thrilled to be asked!” Sue recalled.

Wanting to do whatever she could to encourage the national park designation to become a reality, she made a slide show of special places in Cuyahoga Valley – remember – this was the 70s, so there were no websites, apps or streaming services to help her make her case! Through the CVPF, Sue used the slideshow she created to convince civic groups in Akron and Cleveland to support the mission to claim National Park Status for Cuyahoga Valley – and it worked!

Once the park won approval – first as a National Recreation Area – CVPF became inactive until National Park boots were on the ground. After Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area Superintendent Bill Birdsell arrived in the park, he asked Sue to restore the support group. Sue’s husband, George, led a meeting to organize the revival and shortly after,  the Cuyahoga Valley Association was launched. This organization was eventually renamed as… you got it… the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park!

Sue’s work certainly didn’t end there. In the mid 80s, she joined the Akron Garden Club.  Through the Akron Garden Club and Garden Club of America, she has attended four national conservation meetings in Washington to hear Congress members speak to current conservation legislation as well as hearing U.S. Agency heads and national organizations speak to their efforts. They  also visited their congress members. “This was a real education,” Sue remembered. “Mostly positive!”

Sue never slowed down when it came to advocating for the park. She’s currently serving her fourth term on the board of the Conservancy for CVNP, “a board with an incredible depth of talent,” she added.

Sue is also involved in the Akron Garden Club’s Partners for Plants (natives) committee. With the Cascades Locks Park Association and Summit Metro Parks the garden club is working on a native garden in memory of Christine Freitag, a “fierce defender of the environment who led many successful invasive plant pulls in CVNP,” Sue told us. “This garden will be right along the Towpath where it enters downtown Akron on North Street.”

Sue mentioned that the lack of interest and effort to save our environment that she faces appalls her, but she doesn’t let it bring her down. We wrapped up our conversation with her telling us about a quote from Socrates that she reads often:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Sue believes this is the solution to the conservation efforts she has spent her life embracing.

And now more than ever, it is a time to focus on building the new. In the wake of the closures surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, Sue has already built something new – a goal to walk a park trail every day possible until normalcy resumes.