Even though Wildlife Woods is located just a few miles west of Hudson in the Cuyahoga Valley, it is the land parcel that would spark the creation of the Hudson Park Board in 1961!
Before the first settlers arrived in the late 1700’s, local archeologists have found evidence that the land around the current Wildlife Woods site was most likely inhabited by the Ottawa, Ojibwa and Mingo tribes of indigenous people. These tribes hunted and gathered along the Cuyahoga River. There are even artifacts that have been discovered in the Cuyahoga Valley that suggest that the Cuyahoga River was a major trade route used by the Hopewell tribes dating back 2,100 years ago!
When the first settlers arrived with Moses Cleveland in the late 1700’s, the untamed lands of the Cuyahoga Valley gave way to small villages and family farms. By 1805 most indigenous tribes had been stripped of their lands here and sent to reservations in southern Ohio. In 1820, industrialization was introduced to the valley with the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Immigrant workers arrived to help build the canal which resulted in the rise of boomtowns and small factories in the area. Despite human impact, most of the diverse landscape in Cuyahoga Valley remained wild and beautiful in the late 1800’s so it became a popular destination for city folks to seek pleasure and recreation. Many wealthy urbanites purchased land here to use for private retreats.
In 1920 William B. Shilts purchased the 60 acre parcel that we now know as Wildlife Woods to use as a family camping and picnic destination. He was the secretary for Goodyear Rubber and Tire Company and founded the United Way of Summit County. He later served on the board of trustees for Western Reserve Academy along side colleagues like the co-founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Frank Seiberling and world adventurer, Lincoln Ellsworth. Mr. Shilts moved to Hudson in 1919 with his wife, Edna and they raised their family here. Perhaps their son, Dr. William W. Shilts, was influenced by the sandstone ledges, river gorges and waterfalls surrounding their family retreat because he later became, and still, is a well known geologist.
in 1959, at the age of 78, Mr. Shilts offered to donate his 60 acre family retreat to the city of Hudson. Tom Vince records in Historical Context and Establishment of Hudson Parks, that on January 13, 1959 the first meeting of provisional park board members was held at Town Hall to discuss how to receive the offer. By December 14, 1959, three newly appointed commissioners were sent to Akron to be sworn in as Hudsons very first park board! Mr. Shilts offer was accepted and Wildlife Woods became the first Hudson city park in June of 1961.
In 1974 the 32,061 acres of land surrounding Wildlife Woods was purchased and preserved as Cuyahoga National Park. The trail at Wildlife Woods connects to the Buckeye trail which gives hikers access to over 100 miles of scenic pathways throughout the CVNP.