By Christine Bryant
Metro Parks will celebrate the 45th anniversary of its popular Winter Hike Series this season with a new addition that allows hikers to give back to those in need.
This year’s series is themed “13 Hikes of Giving,” with donations collected for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank at each of the 13 scheduled hikes.
“This is the time of year folks really need food,” said Peg Hanley, public information manager for Columbus & Franklin County Metro Parks. “This gives us a chance to give back to the community, and comes at a great time of the year to shed some pounds, meet new friends and see some beautiful scenery.”
Though participants in the Winter Hikes Series are not required to donate, if they bring four non-perishable items or more, they will receive a commemorative mug.
“They can then continue to bring the mug to winter hikes,” Hanley said.
Each year, Metro Parks hosts a series of hikes that allows residents to explore the outdoors and enjoy food and hot drinks afterward. Participants who complete seven hikes earn a decorative patch.
In the 44 years the series has been held, Hanley said not one has been canceled due to weather. In fact, she says, traditional winter weather often makes the hikes more scenic.
“We’re hoping we have more snow this year,” Hanley said.
This year’s series kicked off on Jan. 6 at Blacklick Woods Metro Park. The hikes are free and open to all ages. Varying distances of hikes are offered at most of the parks, ranging from 1 mile to 6 miles.
If donating to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Hanley says to look for the Metro Parks collection truck and canopy tent. Donations are taken from 30 minutes before the hike until 90 minutes after the hike’s start time. Mugs are limited to one per person.
Only sealed non-perishable items will be accepted, with most needed items including canned tuna or meat, chili with beans, soup with vegetables, peanut butter, and health and beauty products.
The following are this year’s planned hikes:
• Blacklick Woods: 10 a.m. Jan. 6 – 2 or 4 miles
• Sharon Woods: 10 a.m. Jan. 13 – 2 or 4 miles
• Prairie Oaks: 2 p.m. Jan. 14 – 1, 3 or 5 miles
• Scioto Audubon: 10 a.m. Jan. 20 – 1 or 2 miles
• Inniswood: 2 p.m. Jan. 21 – 2 miles
• Clear Creek: 10 a.m. Jan. 27 – 1, 3 or 5 miles
• Blendon Woods: 10 a.m. Feb. 3 – 2, 4 or 6 miles
• Scioto Grove: 2 p.m. Feb. 4 – 1 or 2 miles
• Highbanks: 10 a.m. Feb. 10 – 2.5 or 5 miles
• Glacier Ridge: 2 p.m. Feb. 11 – 2 miles
• Three Creeks: 10 a.m. Feb. 17 – 1, 3 or 5.6 miles
• Slate Run: 2 p.m. Feb. 18 – 2.5 or 5 miles
• Battelle Darby Creek: 10 a.m. Feb. 24 – 2, 4 or 6 miles
For more information, go to metroparks.net.