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Senior Lifestyles

Strollers exploring local trails for more than 40 years

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

CUYAHOGA FALLS — Every year from April through October, a few dozen people gather at the Quirk Cultural Center to embark on a stroll and then eat lunch together.

“The Strollers are a group of people age 55 and up who enjoy the outdoors and area parks,” explained Janet Verchio, who has been the Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation Department’s senior adult supervisor since 1987. “Most hikers join for the enjoyment of walking and the pleasure of stopping on the way home to lunch together — for the camaraderie — but it is rewarding, however, to see those who join to improve their health.”

Starting each year in April, Verchio said, the members of the group meet on Tuesdays at 9:15 a.m. at the Quirk Cultural Center.

“They go over the plan of the day, head to the scheduled park for their hike by carpooling and then go to a scheduled restaurant for lunch,” she said. “If there is bad weather or if a hike cannot be done due to being closed, then we will ad lib it and pick another option.”

Upcoming group trips include the following hiking and lunch destinations: Lock 29 and Fisher’s Cafe & Pub May 6; Hudson Springs Park and Panera Bread May 13; Brandywine Falls and Bob Evans May 20; and the Richfield Branch Library Trail and the Taverne of Richfield May 27.

All of the year’s hikes are planned out ahead of time, Verchio said.

“Generally, they will do the spring and summer schedule around the first week of April. Then, they will do the fall schedule in August.” she said. “They will go through their previous year’s schedule and pick ones they liked, but they always try to add one or two new ones a year to view some new parks. We always have representatives who will go visit a potential trail to make sure that it’s not too strenuous or that it has both strenuous and easy options.”

Verchio said the various members of the group tackle each trail at their own pace.

“There are always around 10 or 15 people who walk faster than the rest. It’s always the same group, and they will be way up front,” she explained. “But we also have some older people in the group, and they may do only one-third of each hike. One group might finish the hike and start to head back, and the older ones will just turn around and start to head back with them. They all start the same and end together. It offers everyone a chance to enjoy the environment and the park at their own pace.”

Any adult 55 and older is invited to join the Strollers, Verchio said, and it is not necessary to be a resident of Cuyahoga Falls. Currently, she said, there are 46 members in the group.

“Usually, though, the average number of people who hike is around 25 when there is good weather,” she said. “When they do a special event, like going to the zoo at the end of the year, there might be 35 or 40 people. But I would say there are about 25 people who go out regularly.”

This year, Verchio noted, the group includes several people in their 80s and has included people in their 90s in the past.

“Sometimes people will join and go to the kick-off luncheon or some special events, but they might not go on the walks anymore,” she stated. “But there are definitely people in their 80s who go on the walks. Some of them might only do part of the walk, but they really enjoy the camaraderie of the group.”

According to Verchio, the group was initiated in 1970 through the senior adult program of the Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation Department.

“It began as a small interest group who wanted to hike,” she said. “They kept record of their hikes during the Fall Hiking Spree by [Metro Parks, Serving Summit County] — earning a hiking staff in the first year and shields to add to the staff each year. A park naturalist would accompany the group on the fall hikes.”

Verchio said the Strollers take part in the annual Fall Hiking Spree as a group.

“The schedule of events I have now for them runs from April through August,” she said. “Then, in September, that’s when the hiking spree begins with the Metro Parks. Our group does their own schedule for the spree that will run through the end of October. Sometimes, the group will even hike in November if the weather stays good, but they don’t hike in the winter.”

The Strollers typically get together for a special event to mark the end of another year, Verchio said.

“We’ve done different things like lunch at a restaurant, or in December they might get together and go to the Ronald McDonald House and give money there,” she said. “They’ve done that the last couple years. They’ve donated some money or an item that might be needed that the group has gone out and purchased.”

Verchio said new participants are “welcome and encouraged” throughout the year. There is no membership fee and no cost to join.

For additional information, call the Quirk Cultural Center at 330-971-8425.

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