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Environment & Energy

Burn Benefits: How Summit Metro Parks Promote Biodiversity

2019 controlled burn at Springfield Bog Metro Park
Summit Metro Parks
At a 2019 controlled burn at Springfield Bog Metro Park, a fire manager pours accelerant on the fire line. The process is similar to the recent burn at Firestone Metro Park this week.

The skies near Portage Lake were filled with smoke on Tuesday as Summit Metro Parks conducted a controlled burn in Akron’s Firestone Metro Park with the goal of preserving the healthy ecosystem.

Controlled burning, also known as prescribed burning, is a process that must be carefully scheduled at times when weather conditions permit fires to burn without risk of evolving into a wildfire.

Onlookers Watch as Fire Managers Work
Summit Metro Parks
At a 2019 burn at Springfield Bog Metro Park, firefighters work to manage the steady burn across the dried up debris of dead grass.

Materials burned in controlled fires include dead grass, leaves, and other debris that would be at risk of causing a wildfire in the event of a dry season without careful management.

Chief of Conservation Mike Johnson says the burn also prevents a natural process called succession, which would transform the grasslands and prairies in the park over time into forests.

Chief of Conservation Mike Johnson Explains Why Controlled Burning is Routine Maintenance For the Parks

“This isn't necessarily a bad thing. But in certain areas where the park has these types of habitats, these rare habitats like prairies, we want to maintain them,” Johnson said.

For park managers and firefighters, burning techniques become a form of routine maintenance that allows for biodiversity on the land. Without such burning techniques, forests can become overcrowded, heavy underbrush can accumulate, insect infestations can increase, and invasive plants are more able to thrive.

For park visitors, this biodiversity management means getting to experience a variety of landscapes and enjoying the beauty of each unique view.