Metro Parks’ annual Spree for All under way
|Shown above is the pin that hikers can earn after turning in completed forms.|
|Shown above are Spree for All participants the Kloetzer family.|
|Photos courtesy of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County|
“Spree for All is our two-month hiking series for people of all abilities,” said Nathan Eppink, chief of marketing and communications for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County. “Whether you’re getting out with a wheelchair, walker, cane, stroller or on foot, you can enjoy these flat, easy trails.”
Eppink said this is the ninth year for the spring event.
“About 10 years ago, we started hearing from people who could no longer complete the more challenging trails that are included in the popular Fall Hiking Spree,” he said. “Instead of changing that successful program, we saw the opportunity to create something new, and Spree for All was developed.”
The trails in the Spree for All are accessible to everyone, Eppink said.
“All of the trails are flat and easy, and the length of the hike is really up to the participant. You get credit and can earn rewards whether you travel a few feet or a whole mile. The distance isn’t important. We’re trying to connect people of all abilities with the Metro Parks,” he said. “All of the trails, at some point, have been tested by clients from United Disability Services [UDS], and we had several UDS groups come out in the last month to retest some trails. They really enjoyed themselves.”
Eppink said an estimated 10,000 people participate in the Spree for All annually in some way.
“Some may start and never finish; others may forget to turn in their forms,” he said. “We know that, on average, more than 2,000 complete this spring hiking event every year.”
The following is a breakdown of the number of people who completed their forms during the past four years, said Eppink:
• 2008: 2,209 (693 new hikers);
• 2009: 2,390 (882 new hikers);
• 2010: 2,151 (830 new hikers); and
• 2011: 2,418 (957 new hikers).
“Combined, 20,465 awards have been presented in the first eight years,” Eppink said.
According to Eppink, 16 different trails are included in this year’s Spree for All.
“That includes six sections of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, so Spree for All hikers can explore the Towpath and celebrate its completion in Summit County. This year’s pin highlights the completion of the trail,” he said. “There are no new trails this year. Last year, the Meadow Loop in the Tallmadge Meadows Area in Munroe Falls Metro Park was added. It opened May 4, 2011.”
In addition to a sense of accomplishment, those who complete five hikes — on five different trails, the same trail or any combination of trails — and turn in a completed entry form will receive a keepsake noting the achievement.
“First-time hikers who turn in their forms receive a neck lanyard, with a small zippered pouch, and a commemorative pin,” Eppink said. “Veteran, or returning, hikers earn a new pin each year.”
Eppink said the Spree for All is open to people of all ages, and pets can even take part in the fun.
“All ages and pets can participate, but only people earn rewards,” he said.
There are no fees involved for Summit County residents to take part in the program. Out-of-county residents will be charged for the rewards at a rate of $10 for first-year hikers and $5 for veteran hikers.
“That’s because the park district is funded by a Summit County real estate tax,” Eppink said.
Entry forms are available online at www.summitmetro parks.org. Paper forms are located at the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm (1828 Smith Road in West Akron), at all Acme Fresh Market locations and at the park district’s administrative offices (975 Treaty Line Road in West Akron).
“Hikes must be completed May 1 through June 30, but forms can be redeemed through Aug. 15,” Eppink said. “Participants can initial and date their own hiking forms if park staff or volunteers aren’t available at the trailheads to do it.”
For additional information, call 330-867-5511 or visit www.summitmetroparks.org.
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