by Erica Peterson
Summit Metro Parks provides both in-person and virtual opportunities for people of all ages to connect and enjoy nature.
The park system will restart its in-person programming in March, after it was suspended due to the pandemic a year ago. Interpretive Naturalist Joe Malmisur is excited to begin the outdoor nature walks again.
“We’re very fortunate in that we had a pretty good following with in-person programs,” he said. “I would imagine that once the word gets out that we’re doing them again, the people will start coming back out.”
On March 21, Malmisur will lead the Geology of the North Ledges program through Twinsburg Ledges at Liberty Park from 1-3 p.m. Participants will meet at the Nature Center and then travel back in time 220 million years among the sandstone ledges. Expect to go off-trail to see unusual rock formations. Boots are recommended, and masks and social distancing are required. Advanced registration begins March 8 by calling 330-865-8065.
Other in-person programs planned for March include Cloudy With a Chance of Stars on March 6 from 8-11 p.m., where participants can join Malmisur in using telescopes at the Liberty Park Nature Center; Searching for Snipes on March 19 from 7-8 p.m. at Wood Hollow Metro Park in Hudson, where participants join a naturalist to search for the elusive night creature; and Waterfowl Watch on March 27 from 9-11 a.m. at the Tinkers Creek State Park area of Liberty Park, where birdwatchers can join Malmisur to view ducks, geese, cranes and other migratory birds.
Attendance at programs is often weather-dependent, he said.
“It it’s a nice, beautiful day, we could get upwards of 150 sometimes. Even if it’s a rainy, cold day, we could still get 15,” Malmisur said. “The people we serve are really good to us, so we try to reciprocate and provide quality programs for all ages.”
Hikers are welcome to explore the parks on their own or take part in self-guided programs. The Spree For All program allows participants to sign up to complete five hikes on their own on five different trails and win rewards.
The wide assortment of trails throughout Summit Metro Parks, from paved walkways to trails through more rugged terrain, provide something for everyone, said Malmisur, who is 63.
“We have such a variety of different things. We have cardio hikes sometimes, we have distance hikes sometimes; it all depends on what a particular person is in to,” he said. “My wife and I, sometimes we’ll go out and hike 8 or 9 miles, depending on what the weather is like.”
Malmisur said the Metro Parks trails and parks have multiple-use areas, where people of all mobility levels can enjoy the outdoors. The 3,000-acre Liberty Park is a good example, he said.
“The Nature Center area has access to two trails that anyone could walk on. They’re all paved,” he said.
The Maple Loop is a quarter-mile loop trail through the woods and a meadow and by the Nature Play area for children. Coyote Run is a 1.2-mile circle in the same area.
For those a little more adventurous, Malmisur suggests the new 2-mile Black Bear trail, a well-marked but unpaved trail through the woods that can be muddy at times. It goes through the Ledges, so there is some rocky terrain, he said.
The signature Ledges Trail is the most challenging. “Anybody with mobility issues should not even try it,” Malmisur said. “You’re walking literally through rubble and boulders, so it could be treacherous. But it is spectacular.”
Other Summit Metro Parks he suggested checking out include Wood Hollow in Hudson and Furnace Run in Richfield, which have well-maintained trails. The O’Neil Woods in Bath has the challenging Deer Run Trail that includes hundreds of stairs, so it’s not recommended for novice hikers.
For those older adults who want to connect with other people more safely, Summit Metro Parks offers a robust virtual programming slate.
The Balloflex program is especially popular right now, Malmisur said. The free chair exercise program via Zoom incorporates elements of dance and fitness in a low-impact workout. It’s designed for all ages and abilities.
“You can get some exercise and see people and interact with people. Especially in the population of seniors in assisted living homes and similar places, that’s really, really important,” he said.
For more information about in-person, self-guided and virtual programming, visit summitmetroparks.org.