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Fall Hiking Spree celebrating 50th anniversary this year

8/29/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

Metro Parks, Serving Summit County’s Fall Hiking Spree offers trails for a variety of ages and abilities.
People who complete Metro Parks, Serving Summit County’s Fall Hiking Spree will earn a hiking shield. Shown are the shields that have been offered. According to Metro Parks officials, shields weren’t awarded the first year, 1964. Shields were introduced in 1965, and that is why there are only 49 shields in 50 years of the Spree.
Photo courtesy of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
GREATER AKRON — This year marks a milestone for the Fall Hiking Spree, the popular annual event sponsored by Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.

“We’re celebrating 50 years of the Hiking Spree,” said Nathan Eppink, chief of Marketing and Communications for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County. “It’s one of the largest and longest-running events of its kind in the country. It started in 1964 as an effort to encourage Summit County residents to explore their Metro Parks. Today, it is an annual tradition for thousands of individuals and families.”

As in past years, participants who hike in at least eight different trails during the Hiking Spree, which runs from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, will receive rewards for the accomplishment.

“First-year hikers earn a hiking staff and shield. Veteran hikers earn the hiking shield,” Eppink said. “Since the park district, and the Hiking Spree, is funded by a Summit County real-estate tax, out-of-county residents will pay a small fee to receive rewards [$10 for first-year hikers and $5 for veteran hikers].”

There is no fee for Summit County residents to earn rewards.

Eppink said more than 12,000 people turn in their forms and receive rewards each year.

“In 2012, that number was 12,736. Our best year was 2003, the 40th anniversary, when 14,865 people earned rewards,” he stated. “We estimate 50,000 visitors participate during the Fall Hiking Spree, but whether it’s due to busy schedules, colder weather later in the season or other circumstances, not everyone completes eight trails or turns in their forms.”

There are 14 trails included in this year’s Fall Hiking Spree. Hikers can select any eight of those trails to qualify for the rewards, or participants can choose seven of those trails and add on one Hiker’s Choice option, wherein they can hike any other Metro Parks trail for credit.

“Each park and trail is different. They have their own ‘personalities.’” Eppink said. “There are a few short, easy hikes included in the Spree, like Old Mill Trail in Furnace Run Metro Park in Richfield, but also some long, strenuous hikes, like Mingo Trail in Sand Run Metro Park in Akron. And in fall, with changing colors, the parks and trails may look different from week to week.”

According to Eppink, each trail has a rating and a class. Trails are rated 1 for easy, 2 for moderate and 3 for strenuous.

“Late last year, we introduced trail classifications,” he said, “so participants will notice them on this year’s form for the first time.”

The classifications are as follows (with descriptions of each provided by Eppink):

  • Class A: Multipurpose trail: “These trails are for runners, walkers and cyclists. They have asphalt or crushed limestone surfaces.”
  • Class B: Accessible trails: “These are flat, easy and meet or exceed ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) requirements. Accessible trails could include sections of multipurpose trails.”
  • Class C: Basic trails: “These are what most people think of when they picture a Metro Parks trail: a natural surface through a meadow or through the woods.”
  • Class D: Primitive Trails: “These are rugged, natural surfaces with few improvements, such as bridges, and maintenance is limited. We currently only have two sections of Primitive Trails — a stretch of Mingo Trail in Sand Run Metro Park in Akron, and part of Gorge Trail in Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls.”

Debuting in the Fall Hiking Spree this year, Eppink said, is The Freedom Trail, a new multipurpose trail in Tallmadge that opened earlier this year.

“In several years, the trail will connect to Downtown Akron,” he stated. “In the meantime, there is just one small parking lot, at 1765 Northeast Ave. in Tallmadge, so I would encourage Spree hikers to go during off-peak hours, such as daytime on weekdays.”

The Spree is open to people of all ages, and even pets can participate in the fun, Eppink said. Dogs, which must be kept on leashes with a maximum length of 8 feet, can join their owners in all of the parks excluding the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm in West Akron.

“There are no canine rewards during the Fall Hiking Spree,” he said. “However, naturalists will offer several ‘Hiking Spree for Dogs’ programs during the season. After each of these, pets will receive a small treat.”

Entry forms for the Fall Hiking Spree are available online at www.summitmetroparks.org or can be picked up at the following locations: F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, 1828 Smith Road in West Akron; the Metro Parks administrative offices, 975 Treaty Line Road in West Akron; near the start of trails included in the spree; or any local Acme Fresh Market store.

For participants to receive their rewards, completed forms can be brought to: the Nature Realm from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays until March 30; or the administrative offices from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until March 31. Veteran hikers can mail completed forms to the administrative offices, but a self-addressed, stamped envelope is required, and shields are mailed flat. Rewards are not available after March 31.

For additional information, go to the above website.

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