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Spree for All returns for 11th year

5/1/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

Spree For All trails are flat, easy and approved for visitors on foot and those with wheelchairs, walkers, canes and strollers.
Each of the Spree For All trails have been tested by clients from United Disability Services (UDS) of Akron. Shown are some UDS hikers.
Photos courtesy of Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
GREATER AKRON — Spree for All, the annual hiking program presented by Metro Parks, Serving Summit County — which is in the process of changing its name to Summit Metro Parks — is now underway. The program, now in its 11th year, runs from today, May 1, through June 30.

“Spree For All offers opportunities for people of all abilities to enjoy the season,” said Nathan Eppink, chief of marketing and communications for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County. “The trails are flat, easy and approved for visitors on foot and those with wheelchairs, walkers, canes and strollers.”

All three of Metro Parks’ multipurpose trails are represented in the Spree for All, Eppink said.

“These include the Bike & Hike Trail, the Freedom Trail and sections of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Trails in seven parks are included, too,” he explained. “Spree For All trails are flat and easy. For some, maybe the Spree is a way to ease back into hiking after a long winter. For others, it’s a series of very manageable hikes for children, or a way to rehab an injury, or the opportunity to just enjoy the outdoors in spring.”

Eppink said each of the trails gives hikers an opportunity to see what Metro Parks has to offer.

“The experience may vary by trail due to the location,” he said. “On multipurpose trails, Spree participants will see cyclists, runners and others in our ‘linear parks.’ In other locations, the trails may wind through woods or a meadow. The wildlife will vary, too. You can complete the Spree by doing the same trail five times, but I would encourage visitors, if they’re able, to see a few different areas.”

Each of the Spree For All trails have been tested by clients from United Disability Services of Akron, Eppink said, and can be used by visitors on foot and those with wheelchairs, walkers, canes and strollers.

The program is open to people of ages, and dogs can even get in on the fun, Eppink said.

“Dogs are welcome on most Spree trails. F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm is a nature-study area, and dogs are not permitted there,” he stated. “Elsewhere, with new signs, we’re reminding visitors about proper ‘PETiquette,’ or pet etiquette. Leashes are required and cannot be more than 8 feet long, and pet owners are asked to pick up pet waste.”

Since the program’s inception, more than 26,000 participants have completed at least five hikes to earn Spree For All rewards, Eppink stated.

“Participants who complete five or more designated Spree trails from May 1 to June 30 earn rewards,” he said. “First-timers earn a neck lanyard and pin. Veteran Spree hikers earn a pin.”

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Spree for All and Eppink said it was one of the program’s biggest years yet, with more than 3,00 people earning rewards — including 1,222 new hikers.

“We estimate, on average, 10,000 people participate in some way,” he said. “Maybe they don’t all finish five hikes or they forget to turn in their forms at the end of the series, but Spree hikers are out there enjoying the Metro Parks.”

According to Eppink, one important change to this year’s Spree for All involves the form that needs to be filled out in order to collect the rewards.

“The format of the form is new,” he said. “Families and groups no longer need to keep track of multiple forms. Our new Spree form accommodates up to six names.”

Entry forms are available online at www.summitmetroparks.org. They also can be picked up in person at the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, located at 1828 Smith Road in West Akron, or at Acme Fresh Market stores throughout Summit County.

Rewards are free for Summit County residents.

“Since the park district is funded by a Summit County real estate tax, out-of-county residents pay to receive their rewards,” Eppink stated. The cost is $10 for first-year hikers and $5 for veteran hikers.

Completed Spree For All forms need to be turned in by Aug. 15 in person at one of two locations: the F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm Visitors Center or the Metro Parks administrative offices, located at 975 Treaty Line Road in West Akron.

For additional information, go to www.summitmetroparks.org.

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