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Metroparks Meetup: “Metroparks Trail Challenge” encourages exploration and exercise

Challenge begins/renews every June; over 300 people already registered for this year
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
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SWANTON, Ohio (WTVG) - Nearly 200 miles of trails wind through the forests, prairies and marshland of the Metroparks -- with over 70 miles of it at Oak Openings Preserve alone. It’s the perfect backdrop to start your personal Trail Challenge.

The Trail Challenge is one where you can set your own goals,” says volunteer coordinator Hannah Calandra. “You can walk, bike, hike or paddle 50 miles, 100 miles, 150 miles... it’s totally up to you.”

$20 for the year -- with the challenge starting/renewing in June -- gets you some pretty nice perks to make you look like a world traveler within Lucas County. “You get a really cool water bottle, and sort of a passport of stickers. If you go out to Middlegrounds, and do the whole Middlegrounds trail there... come into the Visitor Center and say ‘Hey, I hiked all the Middlegrounds trails, can I get a sticker?’ and collect them all. I know we also have stickers for some of our other programs like tree climbing, or mountain biking... really a toss-up of all this fun stuff to do.”

Interest has been running high since the program started five years ago: “We’ve had 300 participants register this year so far, which is quite a lot... if a thousand people can register, we’d want it!”

Susan Cross is one of those 300. She joined last year during the height of the pandemic, and says the parks provided a welcome escape. “I’m an avid hiker and biker,” she explains, “and was looking for something else to hold me accountable and make sure I went outside as much as possible during COVID, so I joined the challenge.”

Susan rolled right past those lofty 50-mile increments within the first few months: “I was just under 500 miles between biking, kayaking and hiking, so I was really excited to reach my goal last year and set some higher ones for this year. The program is really about setting that personal goal to get outside, enjoy nature and the parks... there’s such a satisfaction for me to know I hit that goal.”

Exploration is at the forefront here, with some people discovering their new favorite park. “It forced me to go to some of the parks I wouldn’t necessarily have gone to,” Cross says, “simply because they’re not in my neighborhood. Reaching a goal of going to every single park last year really was great.”

Calandra adds that “to see people kind of get in the zone, in their own little areas of ultra-running and mountain biking, having a good time in the Metroparks... that’s the best thing they can do, and the best thing for us to see.”

You can register at the Wildwood Visitor Center, or online here.

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