Peg Bobel Interview, 2008

Peg Bobel grew up in Akron and became interested in nature by spending time in Virginia Kendall Park and Munroe Falls, which led to her environmentalist activism, including in the Sierra Club. Bobel later served as Executive Director of the Cuyahoga Valley Association (later CVNPA) from 1989 to 2001. She wrote "Trail Guide to the Park," "Nature of the Towpath," and "Beyond Cleveland on Foot" and hosted the first Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor planning meeting to help preserve lands threatened by development. The Trails Council and John Debo promoted connecting the concept to the region's metropark systems. Bobel reflects on the meaning and impact of her efforts.

Participants: Bobel, Peg (interviewee) / King, Michael (interviewer)
Collection: Rivers Roads and Rails: West Creek and Cuyahoga River
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Michael King [00:00:01] Alright, if you would give me your name, please.

Peg Bobel [00:00:04] Okay, Peg Bobel.

Michael King [00:00:08] And what is today's date?

Peg Bobel [00:00:08] Well, that's a good question. [laughs] June 24th, 2008.

Michael King [00:00:12] Okay. Peg, where were you born?

Peg Bobel [00:00:16] Akron, Ohio.

Michael King [00:00:18] Akron. Lifelong resident.

Peg Bobel [00:00:19] Yes. More or less. More or less.

Michael King [00:00:21] Originally.

Peg Bobel [00:00:21] Yes. Yes.

Michael King [00:00:23] Where do you live currently?

Peg Bobel [00:00:24] Currently, Akron. About 10, 15 minutes from here. West Akron. Mm hmm.

Michael King [00:00:30] We'll be there tomorrow.

Peg Bobel [00:00:32] Very good.

Michael King [00:00:33] Okay, what's kept you in the area?

Peg Bobel [00:00:38] Oh, that's a very good question, because I think about that a lot. And we might get into that more later on as you ask questions. But probably family, I would say, would be the mostly... Family and a commitment to the place that I was born.

Michael King [00:00:55] This isn't even close to the questions I have down, but it just came to me.

Peg Bobel [00:01:00] Uh huh.

Michael King [00:01:00] Was a sense of place instilled by your family?

Peg Bobel [00:01:06] That that's another interesting question [laughs] because when I was looking over the possible questions you might ask, that phrase sense of place kept popping into my mind. And I don't know that I would say that it did come from my family. I mean, they were part of that generation that had to move to find work. I mean, my dad definitely moved here to find work, so yeah, right.

Michael King [00:01:35] Alright. For the entire Cuyahoga Valley area, West Creek, Mustill, and so on and so forth, what is your particular interest? What is your part of the project? What is your piece in all this? Where do you fit in?

Peg Bobel [00:01:51] Okay. I guess I'd have to say that I fit into the big general picture. I'm probably one of those many bit players that had something to do with why the park is here and why the heritage corridor is here. But I can't say that I came into it with any particular geographic emphasis. It was really the bigger picture that, you know, that I think I'm... And even even still... In fact, now I'm more involved outside the boundaries of the park in the heritage corridor because I'm more involved in the bigger land conservation movement. So it's, you know, it's not any one of those specific smaller projects

Michael King [00:02:39] With the Cuyahoga Valley...

Peg Bobel [00:02:40] Mm hmm.

Michael King [00:02:42] What was or is the big picture to you?

Peg Bobel [00:02:48] Okay! [laughs]

Michael King [00:02:51] In your eyes, what do you see as the role of the Cuyahoga Valley?

Peg Bobel [00:02:57] The national park or the Valley...

Michael King [00:03:01] Either or all.

Peg Bobel [00:03:02] Itself, the river, the whole landscape? Okay! [laughs] Where do we go with that?

Michael King [00:03:11] These questions are meant for you to go wherever you want.

Peg Bobel [00:03:13] Sure. Sure. Say it again.

Michael King [00:03:15] You were talking about the big picture.

Peg Bobel [00:03:19] Yes.

Michael King [00:03:20] In your eyes, what is that big picture for the Cuyahoga Valley?

Peg Bobel [00:03:22] Yeah.

Michael King [00:03:22] Is it land conservation or education?

Peg Bobel [00:03:24] Okay, the way I kind of frame it in my own mind, both the park and the heritage corridor and everything that's going on around it, it's sort of us as a community finding a better way for humans and the human community to live in and interact with the rest of nature. Okay? I mean, I really, I really believe that. And I think that the park in some ways tries to demonstrate that. Certainly the heritage corridor does. You know, so I don't... I don't ever see it as just preservation or just recreation. You know, all those pieces are important. Certainly the role that it plays in keeping our own economic health going or bringing new economic health, I mean, what's going on in the lower Cuyahoga in Cleveland with the whole, you know, trying to make the Valley a place for finding new sustainable kinds of industry and that sort of thing. You know it all... It's all there. It's all... [laughs] So I guess the easiest thing to say is just that it's a place where I think we're focusing our energy to try to find a more sensible way for humans to live. That's pretty big. [laughs] But why not? [crosstalk] Why not?

Michael King [00:04:50] You said your role is, you know, in the big picture. What are some things that you do or have done in your role that maybe will help define that a little bit more?

Peg Bobel [00:05:00] Okay, yeah, I was thinking about that before I came to try to make it make any sense to you. I mean, one role is clearly as just simply a community volunteer. I mean, I was, like I said, I'm just one of many people who had something to do with creating the park and did that by becoming involved in, you know, different kinds of grassroots efforts. Early on, it would have coalesced around Sierra Club. I was the conservation chair for the local group. We started a joint committee between the Akron group and the Cleveland group that focused on the Cuyahoga Valley to help support creating the park and then helped the park develop. So that volunteer capacity has sort of run through, you know, since the early '70s, so the last 35, 38-odd years. And I still actually volunteer a little bit, you know, so I still stay involved that way. And then from '89 to 2001, I had a professional role in that I was the executive director of the Cuyahoga Valley Association. So there, you know, I was sort of blending the professional and the volunteer 'cause we still volunteered, my husband and I all the time, that, you know, I was doing that. And then and then as an author, because I wrote the The Trail Guide to the Park and the Nature of the Towpath, and I worked with Patience Cameron Hoskins on Beyond Cleveland on Foot and those kinds of things. So and we have this book coming out in spring, we hope. So... So those would be my main, my main roles. And in the volunteer part, I mean, you might get into it later, but it involved sort of starting a whole bunch of different organizations. [laughs] I mean, for a while there, it just seemed like my husband and I were just starting organizations like people do. But that's how stuff gets done. [laughs]

Michael King [00:07:00] I'm going to encourage you wherever you think your answers going to go to just go...

Peg Bobel [00:07:03] Okay.

Michael King [00:07:04] Because if I miss a question or I miss an idea, please, you know, we want to assure you, this isn't about me and my questions, it's... This is the usual....

Peg Bobel [00:07:13] [Laughs] Okay.

Michael King [00:07:14] I just had a quick little spark of interest. You talked about the difference in the two Sierra Clubs of Cleveland and Akron working together...

Peg Bobel [00:07:21] Mm hmm.

Michael King [00:07:24] Was this an original idea or was there some... Was there some rub? I'm working or going to try to take the lead in the Cuyahoga Valley area? Because to me, that is just so important and is such a big part of northeast Ohio. Was there originally contention or was it, hey, we want to save this and no matter what it takes, we'll work together?

Peg Bobel [00:07:48] Yeah. I don't ever recall any contention or competition or anything like that. I mean, it was just so clearly, you know, that Sierra Club's a national group. It's divided into chapters which are then divided into groups, you know, and you just belong to whatever group you're geographically located in. Now, you should know that I would have been, after the park was established, so like late '70s, early '80s, I just happened to be the chair of the Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club. And my now husband just happened to be the chair of the Cleveland Group. So there was natural cooperation [laughs] happening even then. But I think even had we not been who we were and doing what we were doing, you know, many of my friends... Well, in fact, now that I remember that there was no Portage Trail Group for a while. It was only the Northeast Ohio Group. And when Portage Trail formed, it formed out of folks that were in the Northeast Ohio Group that happened to live in this new, you know, in this region. So there was, there was always this sense of we're all in it together. We're just totally all in it together. We didn't necessarily have joint functioning things, though, committees or events or anything like that. We did tend to each group do its own thing. So when we formed by then, I think Rob was living down here. Yeah, he was part of the Portage Trail Group—Rob being my husband, for the record—[laughs] we formed this thing that we just called the Joint CVRNA Committee or something like that. And it was a way for the the conservation leadership of the Northeast Ohio Group and our group to just sit down together monthly, talk to each other, and also meet with the park staff. We met with the superintendent for a while on a monthly basis, I think. So, you know, it was it was always a pretty cooperative thing.

Michael King [00:09:59] Oh, oh I will probably refer to that later. How did you first get into the idea of preserving or protecting nature? What led you to that? You've mentioned Sierra Club, you mentioned working in development with the park. What first said, hey, I need to maybe think about this or I need to work with that?

Peg Bobel [00:10:21] Mm hmm. Yeah, I haven't yet been able to quite figure that out because I... You know, I was.. I was born very close to downtown here, so I grew up in a very urban part of Akron. My parents weren't particularly into... I mean, they were into nature the way folks of that generation would have been, you know, probably more going fishing or going out to a friend's cabin. I remember stories of them going out to, you know, a place on a creek. I was in Girl Scouts, but I wasn't particularly, you know, good at that. [laughs] And I don't remember being real, you know, into the camping part of anything. It really happened more as a young adult. I think, you know, getting out of college, coming back, I found a job in downtown Akron, but my family and I, if we headed anywhere for recreation, we headed out to what was then Virginia Kendall Metro Park or we headed, you know, out for a picnic at Munroe Falls or someplace like that. And I, you know, I was becoming a young adult at the time that the environmental awareness was really kicking in. And I saw a lot that troubled me that I didn't like. And I think I went and sought, you know, sanity and solace and whatever in nature. But I don't... You know, I'm still trying to figure out where it came from. [laughs]

Michael King [00:12:12] You know, this is like the chicken or the egg.

Peg Bobel [00:12:13] Uh huh.

Michael King [00:12:13] Which came first for you, the writing or nature?

Peg Bobel [00:12:21] Oh.

Michael King [00:12:24] Did one lead you to the other?

Peg Bobel [00:12:24] I remember... [laughs] I remember writing an essay about chipmunks when I was in grade school, so who knows?

Michael King [00:12:31] They were brown.

Peg Bobel [00:12:32] You know, I had a little drawing of how they lived underground and the whole thing. So I don't know. You know, no, I do know one thing. Which came first?

Michael King [00:12:45] And did it lead you to the other?

Peg Bobel [00:12:46] Mm hmm. I don't think I can say. I think it is a chicken-egg thing. I don't think I can say. But I do remember, you know, like in my pre-teen years, being very much influenced by my aunt who had no children. So I think she really took myself and my sister under her wing. But she loved both. She loved literature and books and she loved nature. And so she would like, you know, every year when she'd come to visit, I'd get a new golden guide to something, you know? We'd make sure that we took a walks somewhere. We made... She made sure that I learned the birds in the backyard. So I think she probably ended up being a bigger influence than even I realize. Yeah.

Michael King [00:13:36] You've been involved for some period of time.

Peg Bobel [00:13:42] Mm hmm.

Michael King [00:13:45] And with every part of the system that there is now. For everything you've been a part of, what do you think is the greatest piece of all this? What do you think is the greatest achievement for the Cuyahoga Valley that you've been a part of? If you could point and say, a-ha. there it is.

Peg Bobel [00:14:10] [Laughs] Now, you're not talking about things that I had anything to do with necessarily.

Michael King [00:14:17] Maybe you've stamped a piece of paper or mailed an invitation or you went and spoke to a group... What would be an a-ha part of the Cuyahoga Valley that you were part of?

Peg Bobel [00:14:30] Oh, I don't know, I mean, I think I think probably the the biggest thing was when the park made the leap from being, you know, an isolated, misunderstood piece of geography to having greater meaning in the minds of, you know, both ordinary people and the people, you know, in charge politically and, you know, in all ways. When it became less isolated and we got past those early years of contention as far as land acquisition and all that. And certainly, I mean, I hosted, along with my board president and some key people, we hosted the first meeting that talked about this heritage corridor idea. And that was a huge turning point. I mean, that was when the park stopped being just an isolated thing. And this idea of connecting, which John Debo, you know, speaks really eloquently about it. And he, I mean, he was the one that influenced us. I mean, he came to me at that point. I can only remember I guess I was just starting to work for the association, but my husband and I had were two of the five or seven founders of the Trails Council. And he came to us as the Trails Council because there was already a group looking to connect north to Cleveland and he was looking for somebody that would care about connecting to Akron. And I mean, I think that's... That meeting that, you know, I can still sort of picture everybody sitting around the table when the significance of this park took on a bigger role, a bigger meaning, and the whole idea of connecting and not being isolated.

Michael King [00:16:29] Do you still think that there is work to be done even with that?

Peg Bobel [00:16:33] Oh, sure.

Michael King [00:16:34] In the greater northeast community?

Peg Bobel [00:16:37] Sure. I mean, I still hear stories often of, you know, so and so's lived in such and such all their life and they still don't know we have a national park or, you know, that kind of thing. [laughs] Yeah.

Michael King [00:16:51] I haven't lived in the national park, so I can't... I can't ever imagine... [inaudible].

Peg Bobel [00:16:54] [Laughs]

Michael King [00:16:59] I'm going to ask you about your writing here in just a moment.

Peg Bobel [00:17:02] Mm hmm.

Michael King [00:17:02] Were there any—working with the Sierra Club working with the development of the corridor of the parks and so forth—were there any were there any referrals that you were... That you were up against that you thought, wow, this may just not happen? Were there any tough spots or hurdles that kind of perplexed you or the group?

Peg Bobel [00:17:29] We're talking through the whole history here?

Michael King [00:17:32] Mm hmm.

Peg Bobel [00:17:33] You know...

Michael King [00:17:33] I'm trying to make this as general as possible.

Peg Bobel [00:17:36] Okay. [laughs] Okay. Well, I mean, you know, when I really sat down and seriously thought back, the hurdles for all of us who cared about getting the park fully established, was the Watt era. You know, the Reagan Watt era. And, you know, when the park was really threatened, that was, that was a very tough time. And that's probably when we were most active, too. I mean, that sort of led to a resurgence of trying to get a grassroots support group going again and and that sort of thing. So that... that was a time when things were looking pretty, pretty bleak. With the heritage corridor effort, I think what has amazed most of us there is how uncontroversial it's been and how uncontentious and how every meeting, I mean, from the first meeting we had the first public meeting right on down the line, we just kept waiting. We kept waiting for the group to come up to say, oh, this is a terrible idea, you know, [laughs] for the opposition to rise up. And they didn't, you know? There wasn't really much of any. So...

Michael King [00:18:59] I'm sorry. What were you saying?

Peg Bobel [00:19:01] No go ahead.

Michael King [00:19:02] I'm just going to ask you some thunderbolt questions.

Peg Bobel [00:19:02] Yeah. Good, good.

Michael King [00:19:04] From your perspective, and especially as a writer and talking to various people throughout the Valley corridor, do you think that there is a larger systemic change in people's opinion about the local environment?

Peg Bobel [00:19:18] Hmm. That's so hard to gauge when you're so close to it, you know?

Michael King [00:19:23] Fair enough.

Peg Bobel [00:19:24] Yeah. I was just thinking because you were talking about the Reagan era...

Peg Bobel [00:19:26] Yeah.

Michael King [00:19:27] Now we're a few years down the road, just from what you've seen, do you think...

Peg Bobel [00:19:31] Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, I love talking to young people. I mean, like 20s, you know, they're where I was at when the park was being established. I love to talk to them now, you know, and I mean, like my nextdoor neighbors, they get so excited about the same things I was getting excited about then. And then you're on that edge of you're glad that they're excited about the same things. But it's like, dang, why did it take us this long, you know, why? [laughs] You know.

Michael King [00:20:04] [inaudible].

Peg Bobel [00:20:04] [Laughs] Yeah, right. Right. So I don't know. Have people changed their, their sense of... Oh... I hope so. I really, really hope so. I mean the whole... And again, I think it goes less to, I mean, the park got all of this started definitely. But I think what the park was going to be when Bill Birdsell came to town and what the park is now are probably vastly different things. And what the park got started that I think is so valuable now is this whole let's look at this place and realize all the good stuff about it and make it the very best place you could live instead of running around the country looking for the perfect place to live. Make this the very perfect place to live.

Michael King [00:20:53] A sense of place,

Peg Bobel [00:20:54] Yeah.

Michael King [00:20:58] You're taking about place.

Peg Bobel [00:20:59] Yes.

Michael King [00:21:00] In the Cuyahoga Valley, where is your place? Where is your... When you do some thinking, when you do some writing, where do you go?

Peg Bobel [00:21:07] Yeah, I always go back to the Ledges. I always go back to the Ledges. And it occurred to me one day when I was walking around there thinking, wow, I really feel at home here, you know, I really feel rooted here. This is where I get grounded, you know, all that sort of thing. And so I'm walking around thinking, well, why is that? I mean, it's rock. You know? You can go up on the overlook and you get the wonderful perspective of things. [laughs]

Michael King [00:21:34] Everybody has a spot, I think.

Peg Bobel [00:21:37] Uh huh. Uh huh.

Michael King [00:21:41] It's almost like an old friend.

Peg Bobel [00:21:42] Yeah. Yeah. Well, and then I remember, of course, that of the few places that we did go when I was a kid, you know, to get back to nature, that's where we went. And I don't... I bet we didn't even go there very often, but we went there enough that it really had an impression on me. And it really, you know, I mean, the smell of the place, the smell of the CCC buildings, you know, that that old, that old, old wood and stone, damp wood, damp stone smell? Yeah. Brings it all back. [laughs]

Michael King [00:22:17] Absolutely. I'm going to ask you about your writing.

Peg Bobel [00:22:23] Yeah? [laughs]

Michael King [00:22:25] When did you get your first get the idea to start combining your love of the environment with your writing? Maybe, was it a first work? Was it a first idea?

Peg Bobel [00:22:38] Yeah. Yeah. I don't know. I mean, I really always, always have remembered loving, trying to put ideas into words, you know. I mean that goes way back to school. I mean, I loved school probably and because, you know, and I had some really good teachers, especially really good English teachers, a good journalism teacher. But I didn't really ever see that as a career or anything. It was just a way of expressing myself, a way of connecting, you know, and making your thoughts and all make sense. But I do remember, like, you know, I always ended up doing everybody's newsletters. So I did the Sierra Club newsletter. I did the Trails Council newsletter. And in doing those newsletters, you know, I was connecting some of these ideas we're talking about and trying to put into words. I mean, I very clearly remember doing that just in articles and newsletters. So that's probably really where it got started. And then, you know, with the park saying, you know, we really need to get something written about these trails, you know, and coming to us because we as a group knew that the trails, it was just a natural thing. So...

Michael King [00:23:55] And for everyone out there, what was your first published work?

Peg Bobel [00:24:02] Well, it would have been... And when you say publish, keep in mind that a whole bunch of things that we did from the very beginning were what you would call self published. Okay? So it was Trails Council stuff. We did these little... It started out with just... The park thought they wanted little leaflets, pamphlets about each trail with more detailed information about, you know, natural features and that sort of thing. So the and itself published in that we didn't go to a publisher. The Trails Council funded it, found funding, paid a printer. It was done. And same way with the first trail guide. And the trail guide, I certainly wrote. I mean, I pulled that all together, but there were a lot of people that submitted material for that book. So I never... We never wanted to put my name or Rob's or anyone's on it. It was always Trails Council because from the very beginning, other people fed me stuff. And then I pulled it all together, you know, and then Nature of the Towpath, again it was, we found money and self published. So the first time we ever worked with a real, you know, professional publisher was revising Beyond Cleveland on Foot, and we worked with Gray and Co. and Patience Cameron Hoskins. And so really working with real life publishers, I haven't done it that much. [laughs]

Michael King [00:25:49] You've done a lot. What would you consider your favorite work?

Peg Bobel [00:25:54] You know, I go back to the Nature of the Towpath, which is really fun because, it's probably true with a lot of people that the ones they like best aren't necessarily the ones that anybody else ever knows about or reads, you know? I mean, Thoreau could have said that back in the time, not now. [laughs] So but that one, it was just it was thoroughly fun. And it was all my own writing. I think, and now that I think back on it. I mean, that the contributors contributed facts, but it was all my own writing so that when I really look... And the fun thing about that book, people who do have it really, really like it. It's just not what you'd call a bestseller. [laughs] None of mine will be.

Michael King [00:26:44] How has your writing style changed?

Peg Bobel [00:26:46] I hope it's gotten better. I mean, some of that early stuff was really bad. [crosstalk] [laughs] I mean, it really was. And working with real... The nice thing about working with publishers is then you get to work with real editors and they edit your work. And, you know, that's very hard on your ego at first. But that's the only... I mean, you really learn so much. So I really do hope that I'm getting better

Michael King [00:27:12] When you say working with editors has changed you...

Peg Bobel [00:27:12] Mm hmm.

Michael King [00:27:12] Changed your writing, but was it your personal input into the writing or more of a technical part of it? What do you think they changed more of when it came to editing?

Peg Bobel [00:27:28] Yeah. Yeah. Not substance so much really. So it's more... Yeah, more the technical or [inaudible]. I've always wanted to just, you know, be clear and not be one of those writers that just confused people because you know, you use big words or whatever. So I've always just wanted to be very clear and a good editor helps you even more, you know, get rid of stuff you don't need. And my tendency, and I know some of the... I know a couple of people who have contributed to the Canal Fever book that Lynn Metzger and I are doing, my tendency would be to tell every little detail in terribly boring, you know, thoroughness. [laughs]

Michael King [00:28:18] Thoreau-ness or thoroughness?

Peg Bobel [00:28:18] Thoroughness. Thoroughness. So, you know, your editor can help you stand outside of that and look and say, you know, really perhaps the readers heard enough about that.

Michael King [00:28:31] But isn't that what a good writer does? Draws you into a story?

Peg Bobel [00:28:35] Yeah. You want to keep them there. [laughs] You don't want to lose them.

Michael King [00:28:38] I've heard about that stick for five pages.

Peg Bobel [00:28:38] Yeah.

Michael King [00:28:38] Enough with the stick. Go on to something else.

Peg Bobel [00:28:46] Yeah. Yeah.

Michael King [00:28:46] Fair enough. If you were to... Let's see, if you were in London and you had to put one of your books out and say this is what the Cuyahoga Valley is—I already know what you're gonna say, but for our listeners anyways—what would you hand them of your work? This is what the Cuyahoga Valley is.

Peg Bobel [00:29:08] Well, of course I'd give him the trail guide. [laughs]

Michael King [00:29:10] Yes. I mean, this is for people in 40 years from now.

Peg Bobel [00:29:14] Sure, sure, sure. Yeah.

Michael King [00:29:17] Why?

Peg Bobel [00:29:20] Well, believe it or not, now, I know a lot of people... And nowadays, do they even pick up a book? I'm not sure. But I want to check in and see how it's how it's selling because it was so it was the best book selling in the park visitor centers, you know. Now outside of there, I, you know, I don't know how it compares to other things. So, and I don't know how relevant it is these days when you can get so much, you know, easily on the Web. But what we really attempt to do in that book is go beyond giving people the maps, how to find their way around and naming stuff that they might see. In a way, I'd like to go back and do it even more in-depth. I mean, we really had to... We had to keep it short, you know. But if anybody reads the introductory part, I really did try to put it in a bigger context. You know, what this park was all about and what it means and got the whole sense of place thing in there somewhere. Yeah.

Michael King [00:30:29] Have you, and I'm only saying this because of the movie The Return to the Cuyahoga...

Peg Bobel [00:30:34] Oh, yeah.

Michael King [00:30:35] Have you ever thought of trying to take the jump with this piece of work to video?

Peg Bobel [00:30:43] No.

Michael King [00:30:44] No?

Peg Bobel [00:30:44] No. I mean, I, myself, haven't.

Michael King [00:30:48] I watched the movie and....

Peg Bobel [00:30:49] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Michael King [00:30:52] And your guide is a treasured part of my bookshelf.

Peg Bobel [00:30:54] Oh, nice! [laughs]

Michael King [00:30:56] So for your sales?

Peg Bobel [00:31:00] [Laughs]

[00:31:00] When you first got involved with the Valley, with the region, with the corridor, did you at all think that you were going to do everything that you've done?

Peg Bobel [00:31:12] You know, I don't think I thought about it. I think... I think I just took, you know, put one foot in front of the other kind of thing. It was more a responding to needs that were appearing to arise. And I mentioned earlier that there was this period of time where we just felt like we were starting organizations. And I'm reading a great book, by the way, Blessed Unrest. And it's all about this sort of thing. It's, it's entirely all about this sort of thing. It's by Paul Hawken, Smith and Hawken. And I think in there or no maybe it was in another kind of another talk I heard that, yeah, I think it was in another talk where the woman was saying there was a period in her life too where she was just starting organizations because a need would arise. So anyway, there was this period where, okay, we were in Sierra Club, we were starting the Trails Council. We hosted the first meetings that became Friends of the Crooked River and then started the Ohio and Erie Canal Coalition group. So where was I going with this? What was your question? [laughs] Oh!

Michael King [00:32:33] Did you ever think you're going to be... [crosstalk]

Peg Bobel [00:32:35] Right! Right. So, no, I mean, it was really, literally what's there to do next? You know what needs done? I don't... I don't think I premeditated it. You know what I mean?

Michael King [00:32:51] For the volume of work that you've done so far—I hope there are many, many more things going on because I enjoy what you've done so far—what do you think when you look back from when you first got involved, what do you think about what you've done?

Peg Bobel [00:33:08] You mean in all these roles? [crosstalk] Volunteer, professional author, the da-da-da-da-da?

Michael King [00:33:14] Walking down the path from writing a book to giving a talk. What do you think about what you've done?

Peg Bobel [00:33:23] I hope it's done some good. [laughs] I hope it's done some good for somebody somewhere. I hope it's made this place a place that people want to stay and work.

Michael King [00:33:35] I'm moving to it...

Peg Bobel [00:33:35] [Laughs].

Michael King [00:33:35] So you got one.

Peg Bobel [00:33:39] You know, it's funny. I mean, you don't think about it, although getting ready for this... It's interesting. Getting ready for this interview and at the same time we're planning, my husband and I are planning, our 25th wedding anniversary party.

Michael King [00:34:00] Congratulations.

Peg Bobel [00:34:00] Thank you. It does cause you to do sort of a life review.

Michael King [00:34:04] Yeah [inaudible].

Peg Bobel [00:34:04] Like has this meant anything to anybody? [laughs] So actually, this is a... This is a nice, you know, boost for me to sit here and talk because it's like, well, maybe, maybe this has done some good for somebody somewhere. You've got my book on your shelf. That's good.

Michael King [00:34:20] Working for you.

Peg Bobel [00:34:20] [Laughs] You know? So. Oh...

Michael King [00:34:26] Besides the revisions or, you know, coming up with the 2009 version of something, literal, in literacy, what, what do you see next? What's your next writing project?

Peg Bobel [00:34:41] Mmm. That's good that you're asking me that because it's really easy just to be lazy and not do it, you know. What I really want to do, and I need to go out here in the library and see if anybody else has done this, I want to do something on the CCC work that was done in Ohio, CCC and WPA, specifically the conservation element of that era. That's what I would really like to do. And I've actually talked to a friend of mine who's a historian with the state about wouldn't that be a fun thing to do? But I have no idea. I mean, there's probably a lot out there and I don't know, you know. Yeah, yeah. So that sort of thing. Friends of the Crooked River has talked from time to time about doing something in print on the river, more of a guide to the river, again, you know, to look at all aspects of enjoying the river, that sort of thing. So I don't have anything like underway exactly. I've got to get this Canal Fever book out. [laughs]

Michael King [00:35:55] [inaudible]

Peg Bobel [00:35:55] Yeah. Yeah.

Michael King [00:35:56] Fair enough. Now, with the corridor or park, yes, both, either, what... Can you name something that you would like to see done? Something that hasn't been approached yet, something that hasn't been taken care of yet, something that you saw on the side of your eye and you thought, hmm.

Peg Bobel [00:36:20] Yeah, well, this is this is probably a pretty obvious thing. But I mean, I remember when I first started working for Cuyahoga Valley Association, so it would have been like around, you know, '90, '91. It was really troubling me, all the development around the edges of the park, and, you know, unplanned, uncontrolled kind of stuff that I just felt like we weren't being real smart about some things. And at that time, there was nobody inside the park that could really wanted to or could devote attention to outside the park because there was so much needing to be done, you know, inside and I think sensitive too to the whole land acquisition period that they had been through. So when we formed... When we got the corridor a group going, again I hoped that there would be some piece of that that would look more at conservation in the whole region in a planned, you know, a more regional planned way. Now, that is finally happening, not that the corridor is taking it on, but the corridor is at least partnering with other organizations. And like Metro Parks serving Summit County has done that wonderful confluence park plan. Have you seen that? There are... The various metro parks in northeast Ohio got together and started looking regionally at land conservation. And then when the eight land conservancies merged two years ago, you know, that's a regional—that's a 15-county, I think it is—planning effort as far as, you know, protecting, you know, looking at land use in a regional way and looking at getting closer to the park, looking at the impact land has on the park, land use outside the park, on the park. So, you know, that's one area that I think has just needed more attention.

Michael King [00:38:31] Fair enough.

Peg Bobel [00:38:31] Yeah.

Michael King [00:38:36] Kind of to the point where I'm going to ask you, from your perspective, either about yourself or your work with the park or the park itself...

Peg Bobel [00:38:49] Mm hmm.

Michael King [00:38:48] 20, 30 years from now, what are some things people should know?

Peg Bobel [00:38:56] 20 or 30 years from now, what are things...

Michael King [00:38:59] What should people know about you, the park, you and the park, you and the corridor, do you think that you want on a record 20, 30 years from now that little Jane Smith in fifth grade's gonna hear?

Peg Bobel [00:39:18] I wonder what her classroom is gonna look like! [laughs].

Michael King [00:39:20] Could it be...

Peg Bobel [00:39:23] 20 or 30. Oh, that's such a good thing. I have a friend that's doing a lot of work and thought about how the park could be really the classroom for almost everything you have to teach. [laughs] You know, I mean, I just keep thinking back. I don't know how many people you're interviewing, but you're going to know that, you know, there were just a lot of us out there and we all played a different role that, you know, was relatively tiny and... But it's all those tiny roles pulled together that has made all the difference in the world. So, I mean, I think it's just never lose sight of the fact that, you know, if you think something needs done and you have any skills to do it, you do it. And all those those tiny pieces start to coalesce and you may not even be aware of it. That's the interesting and fun thing is you're not even really aware of the influence that you are having.

Michael King [00:40:38] Now, just for your own personal self, is there anything that you're like, something that I've missed, something that while you were going back through preparing for this that you thought I might ask you, that you'd like to add? Because, again, I'm sure I didn't catch everything. Maybe your memory of working on this, maybe just an incidental moment that may have triggered something very cool?

Peg Bobel [00:41:09] [Laughs]. No, it's interesting because I was kind of going by the questions that were sent out ahead of time. And, and this has been a little different, but I've enjoyed this. [crosstalk] No, I enjoy this. This is, this is, this is very good. Do I have anything to add? Hmm. No, I don't think so. [laughs]

Michael King [00:41:43] Tim, was there anything you heard that you wanted to...

Tim Gallagher [00:41:46] One of the questions that I like to ask in these interviews is, you know, what kind of advice do you have for, maybe, for somebody who's just getting involved or what kind of advice do you have for somebody who's actually taking on a large project like preserving land or saving a park or a building or something? Because you've been quite involved. So what would be your one piece of advice that we could learn from you and take?

Peg Bobel [00:42:25] Hmm, I don't know. It's funny, you know, I just I don't think about these things, I think I just did them, you know, but I... Okay, this is so obvious, but it's persevere, you know? It's just persevere because... And of course, because I have stayed in the same place, that perseverance came almost naturally, you know. I mean, had I left and gone elsewhere, well, I would have perhaps taken up similar work in another region. By staying here, I, you know, I guess I could have chosen to just sort of drop out and we sort of did. I mean, I say we, my husband and I would shift our energies like very intense on Trails Council for a certain number of years. And then you you sort of, you know, you sort of wear out or whatever. And so you shift your energy. And then he became very involved in the corridor. And I moved more to Land Conservancy work, you know, so you persevere. You do have to shift with what, you know, what your energy is going to allow you to do so that you don't burn out. It's funny, I burned out in my real career, which was as a social worker, [laughs] and I left that entirely, but not entirely, because I still do things that relate to that and, you know, and draw on those skills. But, yeah, you want to, you know, to be sensitive to your own interests and needs so that you you move your energy where you can be most effective. And when you're not being effective, you know, be aware of that and to shift and go elsewhere. And then just to hang out with people who feed that energy, feed that positive energy, you know, it's very invigorating when you're starting to feel slump to be with people who are interested in this or you read about a group in some other town and it's like, oh, wow, you know, yeah, we could do that, too, you know, how are they... You know, they took that... I mean, we're taken on a little piece of property now in, just south of downtown Akron that, you know, a lot of people would say, why are you putting any energy into that at all? It's, you know, it's been impacted by industry and da-da-da, and then I pick up a, you know, Trust for Public Land magazine and I read about an almost similar, almost exact instance in some other town. And some really devoted person has said we can turn this into a really great neighborhood park, you know, and they do it. So, you know, you just keep finding those inspirations elsewhere and keep at it.

Michael King [00:45:37] Any last thoughts?

Peg Bobel [00:45:38] This has been fun. It's been great. I think what's wonderful and if anybody is, you know, gonna listen to this 20 or 30 years down the road, is that you don't, like I said, you don't often really just think about what you're doing. You do it because it's part of you, because you believe in it, you know, or whatever. And it is wonderful to hear that, gosh, you know, maybe it did play a little tiny role in something [laughs] that made a difference.

Rivers Roads and Rails: West Creek and Cuyahoga River

Interviews in this series, covering topics relating to the preservation of the West Creek and Cuyahoga River watershed (Cleveland, Ohio), were collected by participating teachers in the Rivers Roads and Rails grant, a Teaching American History (TAH) grant, sponsored by the US Dept of Education.