As Chief Executive Officer of Cleveland Metroparks, Brian Zimmerman is responsible for the management of over 24,000 acres of green space in Northeast Ohio including 18 park reservations, eight golf courses, and the nationally-acclaimed Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
Brian leads the Park District’s highest rate of land acquisition under any Cleveland Metroparks leader in the park’s 104-year history aside from founder William Stinchcomb. Since Brian assumed the role of CEO in 2010, the Park District has acquired nearly 3,000 acres for preservation and conservation. The significant park growth includes the acquisition and transformation of nearly 750 acres of lakefront beaches and park land along Lake Erie into safe, clean attractions for the community, establishing the lakefront as a regional destination. Over the last decade, Brian has strategically expanded park access to 49 communities across six counties and added more than 40 miles of new paved and natural surface trails, bringing the park's trail network to more than 320 miles of trails.
As CEO of Cleveland Metroparks, Brian also has overseen the transformation of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo into a nationally-recognized facility for animal care and wildlife conservation. Under his leadership, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and non-profit Cleveland Zoological Society have invested $35 million in larger and more complex animal habitats, including African Elephant Crossing, Rosebrough Tiger Passage, Asian Highlands and the Daniel Maltz Rhino Reserve.
Most recently, Brian’s leadership throughout the global pandemic resulted in several notable accomplishments. Among them, record-breaking visitation with more than 19.7 million recreational visits in 2020 and the completion of the Re-Connecting Cleveland TIGER trails project that links more than 66,000 Cleveland residents to the region’s vast network of parks and trails. His efforts have been recognized nationally through several awards including the 2021 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park Management by National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), the highest national honor in parks and recreation. This is the fifth Gold Medal in Cleveland Metroparks history and the second awarded under Brian’s leadership.
Brian has improved partnerships with local and federal governments as well as community stakeholders and under his leadership the Park District secured more than $150 million in external grants and donations.
In addition to his role with Cleveland Metroparks, Brian is a member of the American Academy for Park & Recreation Administration (AAPRA) and serves on several boards including Destination Cleveland, Flats Forward, iHeartMedia Local Advisory Board, Northeast Ohio Sustainability Community Consortium and has served as past Chair of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. Brian was recently recognized as a 2021 Smart Business Smart 50 Honoree and among Northeast Ohio’s “Power 150,” a list of the region’s most influential CEOs, politicians and civic leaders. He also received the COVID Impact Relief Award by Smart Business in 2020. Brian has been previously recognized as the 2018 National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO) Professional Fellow Award, Crain’s Cleveland Business 2017 CEO of the Year, a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and 2016 "Professional of the Year" by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.
He is graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to serving as Cleveland Metroparks' sixth leader in its 104-year history, Brian was Chief of Operations for the Milwaukee County Parks, Recreation and Culture department. Brian enjoys golf, traveling, especially to see Big 10 college football games, and spending time with his family, including wife Jill, son Carter and their Weimaraner, Eli. He is also an avid sports fan and enjoys hiking and boating.