By Christine Bryant
The Metro Parks Annual Winter Hike Series returns this January, and organizers are making a special effort to make sure pet owners know their four-legged friends are welcome at more than half of the hikes.
Of the 13 hikes planned for January and February, seven are open to leashed pets.
Peg Hanley, public information officer for Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, said pets have always been welcome on the dog-friendly trails featured in the series, including trails at Sharon Woods, Prairie Oaks, Scioto Audubon, Scioto Grove, Glacier Ridge, Three Creeks and Battelle Darby Creek.
Organizers are working to better communicate that fact this year. For example, in publicity for the hike series, they are featuring paw print graphics next to the hikes where pets are welcome.
“For years, people would come with their dogs because they knew the trails were pet-friendly,” Hanley said. “So this year, we wanted to make sure (everyone) knew they could bring their leashed pets.”
13 Hikes of Giving
As in previous years, this year’s Winter Hike Series includes a giving component. At each of the 13 hikes, a Metro Parks truck and canopy tent will be on hand to collect non-perishable food for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
Donations will be accepted beginning 30 minutes prior to each hike and up to 90 minutes after the hike start time. Participants who donate four or more items will receive a Metro Parks commemorative mug.
Last year’s hike series collected over 3,000 cans of food, Hanley said.
Most needed items include chili with beans, canned fruit, tuna, other canned meat, canned vegetables, soup with vegetables, and peanut butter.
Hanley said Metro Parks also will accept $5 donations by credit card. Those who make a $5 donation will receive a commemorative mug, as well.
At this year’s first hike planned for Jan. 5 at Blacklick Woods, participants will enjoy vegetable soup, a long-time tradition at the park.
Other parks feature their own special food offerings. At Sharon Woods, for instance, volunteers grill chicken to be used in chili offered at the hike, Hanley said.
“Different parks will have hot chocolate and a toasty fire with marshmallows being roasted,” she said. “Different parks pride themselves on what they do.”
Participants who complete seven hikes receive a commemorative patch. Members of the Friends of Metro Parks can earn a walking stick or medallion for completing all 13 hikes.
Dates, times, places and distances for the 46th Annual Winter Hike Series are as follows:
Jan. 5–10 a.m., Blacklick Woods in Reynoldburg, 2 or 4 miles;
Jan. 12–10 a.m., Sharon Woods in Westerville, 2 or 4 miles;
Jan. 13–2 p.m., Prairie Oaks in West Jefferson, 1, 3 or 5 miles;
Jan. 19–10 a.m., Scioto Audubon, downtown Columbus, 1 or 2 miles;
Jan. 26–10 a.m., Clear Creek in Rockbridge, 1, 3 or 5 miles;
Jan. 27–2 p.m., Inniswood in Westerville, 2 miles;
Feb. 2–10 a.m., Blendon Woods in northeast Columbus, 2, 4 or 6 miles;
Feb. 3–2 p.m., Scioto Grove in Grove City, 1 or 2 miles;
Feb. 9–10 a.m., Highbanks in Lewis Center, 2.5 or 5 miles;
Feb. 10–2 p.m., Glacier Ridge in Plain City, 2 miles;
Feb. 16–10 a.m., Three Creeks in Groveport, 1, 3 or 5.6 miles;
Feb. 17–2 p.m., Slate Run in Canal Winchester, 2.5 or 5 miles;
Feb. 23–10 a.m., Battelle Darby Creek in Galloway, 2, 4 or 6 miles.
No registration is required. Hikes are free. For more information, go to metroparks.net.