By: Samuel Holland
Five Rivers MetroParks has many great ways for students to get involved, even as one encounters the autumn and winter seasons.
Whether trying a water sport at the new River Run, enjoying the changing colors at Germantown’s backpack trail, or learning sustainable skills at Carriage Hill, MetroParks has something to offer everyone as the seasons change.
Kristen Wicker, marketing manager for Five Rivers MetroParks, said that no two parks are alike, but that each park possess unique aspects. The park system includes 25 properties, 18 of which are parks. It has the nation’s largest network of paved, off-street trails and over 75 miles of hiking trails.
Germantown MetroPark offers visitors a chance for winter sledding, while Possum Creek and Carriage Hill MetroParks allow an opportunity for skiing and winter hiking. The ice rink at RiverScape’s MetroPark opened Nov. 25 and is open through the end of February.
The ice rink offers ice skating lessons, pond hockey, and includes a warming area and hot chocolate. Wicker said that the rink is a good way to enjoy the riverfront. The 2nd Street Market at 600 E. 2nd St. remains open all year and is an indoor option to visit as Dayton transitions into cooler temperatures. This farmers’ market, operated by the parks, offers fresh and local food favorites.
Those who are looking for some quiet time outdoors can find solace at Germantown MetroPark this season. “It feels like a remote area,” Wicker said. “It is about a 20-minute drive from the University of Dayton. It’s awesome, your phone will quit working, there’s no Facebook or Instagram.”
The MetroParks has a commitment to land protection. MetroParks protection entails over 16,000 acres of land, and the conservation of this land is core to their mission. The conservation includes opportunities at Carriage Hill and Possum Creek MetroParks. Carriage Hill, located at 7800 Shull Road in Huber Heights, transports a visitor to life in the 1880s. Visitors can take home knowledge on sustainable living skills used in that era that are becoming more popular again today, such as canning, churning, pickling and sewing.
A visitor at Possum Creek MetroPark, found at 4790 Frytown Road in Dayton, can learn more about raising animals, cheese making, pollination, and utilizing skills beneficial to conservation, like composting and recycling, in order to leave less of an impact on the environment.
Janet Metter, volunteer coordinator of horticulture, overseas volunteer projects at the Cox Arboretum. She sees volunteers as the lifeblood of the organization.
“The most important thing is to have the interest and enthusiasm for nature. Our opportunities can fit anyone’s schedule,” Metter said.
“We could not fulfill our mission without volunteers, and it can truly be a learning experience for students,” Wicker said.
Volunteers can take part in some of the large events that MetroParks host annually. These include Adopt-A-Park in April and Bike to Work Day, which takes place in May at RiverScape MetroParks, and encourages Dayton residents to take a break from their cars for the day.
Students in programs from biology to engineering to education have all found volunteering opportunities in a field-related setting at Five Rivers MetroParks. Wicker said that a student studying education may enjoy becoming a tour guide at Carriage Hill MetroPark while a student in the biology field may relate to some of the areas of conservation in the parks.
Wicker said that the MetroParks are striving to fulfill their mission of meeting the needs of patrons and the environment through new projects this year. RiverScape’s River Run is to be completed in the spring and will be available for beginners of water activities, such as paddling, and those who are more advanced at the sport.
River Run is a $4 million project that will replace a dangerous low dam near the Dayton Art Institute. The MetroParks river trail stretches from Eastwood MetroPark to Carillon Park. The Great Miami Mitigation Bank has also undergone upgrades this year.
“It was previously farmland and was slated to become a landfill. It will eventually become a prairie and a wetland,” Wicker said.
To obtain an activities guide, or to discover more about volunteer opportunities and involvement, visit www.metroparks.org.
Photo Courtesy of youtube.com