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Metro Parks Spree For All marks 10th anniversary

4/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

A reward for completing the Spree For All is a commemorative pin. Shown is the 2013 pin, as well as the past nine years of pins that were awarded.
GREATER AKRON — This year, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County will be celebrating the anniversaries of two popular events: the Fall Hiking Spree and the Spree For All.

First up is the Spree For All, which will run from May 1 through June 30. The annual event is marking its 10th anniversary this year.

“A little more than 10 years ago, we started hearing from Fall Hiking Spree participants — some of whom were getting older, some who had children with strollers — that its trails were too difficult or too long for them,” said Nathan Eppink, chief of marketing and communications for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County. “Instead of changing the Fall Hiking Spree, which this year will be 50 years old, we saw it as an opportunity to create something new, and Spree For All — our spring spree — was developed.”

Clients from United Disability Services retested the .35-mile Meadow Loop at the Tallmadge Meadows Area in Munroe Falls Metro Park April 22. Shown is a client on the trail.
Photos courtesy of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
Eppink described the trails involved in the Spree For All as “flat and easy.”

“All of the Spree For All [trails] have been tested by clients from United Disability Services, and they are approved for users with wheelchairs, walkers, canes, strollers and hikers on foot,” he stated. “They’re for everyone, regardless of ability, but there’s a good variety of parks and trails included. The Bike & Hike, Freedom and Towpath trails are linear. The Meadow Loop in Munroe Falls Metro Park’s Tallmadge Meadows Area (1088 North Ave. in Tallmadge) is exactly that — a loop through the meadow. The short walk through the Rock & Herb Garden at F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm (1828 Smith Road in Akron) is a favorite among many participants.”

Eppink said the Spree For All includes “a section of the Bike & Hike Trail, five sections of the Towpath Trail and seven trails in various parks.” And on May 1, Metro Parks will dedicate the first phase of the new multipurpose Freedom Trail in Tallmadge with a brief ceremony at Lions Park at 11 a.m.

“The Freedom Trail is flat and easy, and it’s new on the Spree this year,” Eppink said. “The distance of this first phase is 4.2 miles, from Middlebury Road to Tallmadge Circle. We’re working on Phase II this year. It’s 2 miles from Tallmadge Circle to Eastwood Avenue in Akron. When completed, the trail will be 8 miles and connect Kent with Akron and link up with the Towpath Trail at Northside Station. The projected completion date is 2015.”

An estimated 10,000 hikers participate in Spree For All each year, Eppink said, and as in previous years, Metro Parks rewards are available for hikers who take part in the event.

“Here’s how it works,” Eppink said. “We provide a hiking form — available online at www.summitmetroparks.org, at Spree trailheads and all Acme Fresh Market Stores — and from May 1 through June 30, you’ll earn rewards if you complete five hikes. It can be five different Spree trails or the same trail, and the distance completed is up to the participant. The distances listed are only meant to be a guide. No distance listed is more than a mile round-trip.”

According to Eppink, first-year hikers earn a neck lanyard and commemorative pin, while veteran Spree hikers will earn a new pin. The rewards are free for Summit County residents, while out-of-county hikers pay a small fee ($10 for first-year hikers and $5 for veteran hikers).

“The number of people who receive rewards has been fairly consistent in the event’s first nine years,” he said. “Last year, 2,740 participants received rewards. That was up from 2,418 the year before. In the first nine years, 23,205 people have completed the Spree.”

The Spree is open to hikers of all ages, Eppink said, and even some pets.

“Pets are welcome, though we don’t offer rewards for four-legged visitors,” he noted. “They must be leashed at all times — 8-feet max — and owners are asked to pick up after their pets. It’s not fertilizer.”

One animal who is always welcome on the trails is Cheeks the chipmunk, a Metro Parks mascot. Twice in May and twice in June, Cheeks is scheduled to greet visitors at select Spree trailheads. The locations, dates and times for Cheeks’ visits are as follows: Gorge Metro Park main entrance, 1160 Front St. in Cuyahoga Falls, May 1 from 6 to 8 p.m.; F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, 1828 Smith Road in West Akron, May 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Cascade Valley Metro Park Overlook Trail, 354 Sackett Ave. in North Akron, June 6 from 6 to 8 p.m.; and Freedom Trail — Middlebury Lot, 1765 Northeast Ave. in Tallmadge, June 23 from 1 to 3 p.m.

For more information about the Spree For All, call 330-865-8065 or visit the above website.

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