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Fall Hiking Spree’s 51st year beginning Sept. 1

8/28/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

Summit Metro Parks’ Fall Hiking Spree will begin Sept. 1. Shown is a family taking part last year.
A first-year hiker who completes at least eight designated trails through Nov. 30 will earn a hiking staff and shield, shown above. A veteran hiker will earn a hiking shield.
Photo and graphic courtesy of Summit Metro Parks
GREATER AKRON — Nathan Eppink, chief of marketing and communications for Summit Metro Parks, calls the Fall Hiking Spree “the biggest and longest-running event of its kind in the country.”

“The spree works pretty much the same way it did when it began in 1964,” he said. “We offer a list of trails, and participants can choose a number of hikes to complete on their own time.”

In order to encourage more people to take part in the popular annual event, which is sponsored by Summit Metro Parks, participants who complete eight or more hikes from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 will earn a reward.

“A first-year hiker who completes at least eight designated trails through Nov. 30 will earn a hiking staff and shield,” Eppink said. “A veteran hiker will earn a hiking shield.”

Rewards are free for Summit County residents, while out-of-county residents are required to pay for their awards ($10 for first-year hikers and $5 for veteran hikers).

According to Eppink, participants have many trails from which to choose.

“They range from easy trails, which have a 1 rating on the form, to strenuous trails, which have a 3 rating. There’s a good mix on the spree,” he said. “Someone could complete the spree by doing only easy and moderate trails, if the strenuous ones seem too challenging.”

The eligible trails include the following options: the Pheasant Run Trail in Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton; Chuckery Trail in Cascade Valley Metro Park in North Akron; Quarry Trail in Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park in Peninsula; Redwing Trail in Firestone Metro Park in South Akron; Rock Creek Trail in Furnace Run Metro Park in Richfield; Piney Woods Trail in Goodyear Heights Metro Park in East Akron; Highbridge Trail in Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls; Spring Hollow Trail in Hampton Hills Metro Park in West Akron and Cuyahoga Falls; the Ledges Trail in Liberty Park in Twinsburg; Indian Spring Trail in Munroe Falls Metro Park in Munroe Falls; the Cherry Lane/Fernwood Loop at F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm in West Akron; Deer Run Trail in O’Neil Woods Metro Park in Bath; the Dogwood Trail in Sand Run Metro Park in West Akron; and the Prairie Trail in Springfield Bog Metro Park in Springfield.

“There’s also the Hiker’s Choice option, which allows participants to choose one Metro Parks trail that isn’t on the form and to hike that one for credit,” Eppink said.

For those who have participated in the Fall Hiking Spree in previous years, the Deer Run Trail in O’Neil Woods Metro Park, located at 2550 Martin Road in Bath, will “look and feel a little different this year,” Eppink noted.

“It sustained significant damaged in the May 12 storm, and it was only reopened several weeks ago,” he said. “Some of the route is new, and switchbacks have been added. But the distance, 1.8 miles, is the same.”

On average, Eppink said, approximately 12,000 people earn rewards each year.

“An estimated 50,000 individuals participate in some way during the three-month span,” he said. “We know a lot of people run out of time and don’t complete eight hikes, and some people simply forget to turn in their forms.”

In 2013, “just under 12,000 people completed” the spree to earn rewards, Eppink said, falling short of expectations for the 50th anniversary of the spree.

“We had hoped for a higher number, honestly,” he said. “But, if you remember, the federal government closed in October, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park was forced to shut its doors. When that happened, we received questions about the status of our parks, since several are in the valley. It’s very possible that CVNP’s two-week closure — during peak fall colors — affected our spree numbers, even though our parks remained open.”

Eppink said returning participants will notice the hiking form has “evolved” this year.

“Instead of every hiker needing his or her own form, one form will work for a group, family or individual,” he stated. “We hope that makes it easier for people hiking together.”

Hiking forms — with park addresses, trail ratings and distances — are available online at www.summitmetroparks.org, or in person at the following locations: the Nature Realm Visitors Center, 1828 Smith Road in West Akron; the park district’s administrative offices, 975 Treaty Line Road in West Akron; and all Acme Fresh Market stores.

“First-time and veteran hikers can drop off forms and pick up rewards in person through March 31 at two locations, the Summit Metro Parks administrative offices and the Visitors Center at F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm,” Eppink said. “Only veteran hikers can send in their forms [to 975 Treaty Line Road, Akron, OH 44313]. Shields will be mailed flat.”

The Fall Hiking Spree is open to people of all ages, Eppink noted.

“It’s not uncommon to see participants who are nine months old and some who are 90 years old,” he stated. “There’s never been a better time to start the Fall Hiking Spree. Just get out there and hike or walk, and start a new annual tradition.”

For additional information, visit www.summitmetroparks.org.

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