Metro Parks, Serving Summit County is looking to gain in popularity one click at a time. And two area shutterbugs are helping the park district garner followers in cyberspace.
West Akron photographer Bob Roach is on the front line just about every day of the week looking for just the right shot to gather those sought after “likes” and clicks on the park district’s Facebook page.
The 82-year-old is partial to the Seiberling Nature Realm, Firestone Metro Park and the Manchester Road Trailhead on the Towpath Trail.
He favors birds, butterflies and dragonflies and provides about 25 photos a week to the park district from the 150 or so photographs he is likely to take.
His shot of a partially camouflaged eastern screech owl in the Firestone Metro Park quickly became a Facebook hit attracting about 12,900 page views in just a few weeks.
Another popular volunteer photographer is Jerry Cannon of Stow.
Cannon, 69, typically provides a dozen photographs a week to the park district from the 500 photographs he is likely to take. He is typically in the parks with his camera six days a week.
“I’m just looking for something out of the ordinary,” he said. “Taking pictures in the park has become a real addiction for me.”
And clicking on his photographs has become somewhat of an addiction for followers of the Metro Park’s Facebook page.
A snapshot of a colorful collection of cardinals at the Firestone Metro Park quickly attracted about 8,000 views.
Cannon said he and the other photographers get a kick out of the reaction they get from followers of the Facebook page — particularly when someone clicks the “like” button.
“When that happens, we get a good feeling, a rewarding feeling,” Cannon said. “The number of likes I get makes me feel good.”
While the photographers look for “likes,” park district officials long for more followers.
The Summit County park district has garnered a total of 11,244 likes or friends since it joined Facebook in mid-2009.
Spokesman Nate Eppink said this includes 1,480 new followers just in the first three months of 2013.
“People pay attention to the pages,” he said. “It’s something that has great value.
“We try to brighten up people’s days.”
The park district is not alone in adding social media as a way to interact and attract park visitors.
Cleveland Metroparks has more than 44,000 Facebook followers. The Ohio state parks have 27,750 followers.
Locally, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has more than 2,000 Facebook friends or likes since mid-2012. Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park has 2,452 friends.
The Stark County Park District has 2,017 friends or likes on its page. The Portage Park District has 532 friends or likes. The Medina County Park District has 41 friends or likes on its Facebook page. The Ohio & Erie Canalway has 1,150 friends or likes.
Such Facebook pages help nurture the community of park lovers and keeps people engaged in the park district, Eppink said.
“The pages enable us to be current and present and reach out to community members,” he said. “It enables people to connect to Metro Parks even when they’re not here. The pages let them learn more about the parks and our plants and animals.” The Facebook pages have proven to be helpful in answering questions and providing accurate information to park users, he said.
The goal, he said, is to keep the pages interesting without overdoing it.
The park district’s Facebook page has evolved since it started, Eppink said.
It went from a few short park announcements to dominating photographs posted by a cadre of about 15 talented volunteer photographers including Roach and Cannon.
Typically, three or four photographs are posted on the Facebook page every day including weekends.
This requires a steady stream of high-quality photos, plus some work to get everything posted in a timely fashion, Eppink said.
The most popular photographs are landscapes, sunrises and sunsets and birds.
Eppink said historical photographs are also popular. Photos typically get anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 views.
Among the most popular ever is a collage showing a piebald or white-colored deer in Stow by Gena Williams. It has garnered well more than 15,000 views.
“The talent pool is incredible and what we are getting are truly awesome photos that showcase the park district,” Eppink said.
It’s not unusual for a single photograph to get several hundred likes plus additional comments on Facebook.
The park district began its Facebook pages after realizing that unofficial pages were popping up, Eppink said.
Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, added Facebook pages in late 2011 and early 2012 for specific trails and individual parks.
The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail has a total of 1.023 followers and the Bike & Hike Trail, 161 followers. Goodyear Heights Metro Park in East Akron has the most followers with more than 1,069. Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton has 899 followers and Sand Run Metro Park in Northwest Akron has 821 followers.
The second-fewest friends are linked to the newest site like the Freedom Trail that is still being built from Tallmadge to Akron. It has attracted 125 followers since it was started in early March. Only O’Neil Woods Metro Park with 110 followers has fewer.
Eppink said he would like to see the park district have 15,000 friends or followers by the end of the year for its main Facebook page.
“If that happens, we would be thrilled,” he said.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.