By LAURI GROSS
Embrace the Northeast Ohio winter this year by engaging in some of the many activities offered by the Geauga Park District and Cleveland Metroparks. There are events and programs for all ages, many of which are free. Some require registration so check the websites for details.
Geauga Park District
The mission of Geauga Park District is to preserve, conserve and protect the natural features of Geauga County and to provide outdoor recreational experiences to residents of every age and ability throughout the year. The Geauga Park District includes 27 parks. Here’s a sampling of what’s available this winter.
Cleared trails for walking
Park operations crews regularly clear snow from paved trails in six parks:Orchard Hills Park, Sunnybrook Preserve and Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Park in Chesterland; Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve in Chardon; Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge; The Maple Highlands Trail-North from Fifth Avenue in Chardon to the Lake County line.
Geauga Gems trekking series
Receive a trekking card to track your progress to earn a walking stick or a medallion sticker to show how many miles or different hikes you’ve completed throughout the year. Register at 440-286-9516, or GeaugaParkDistrict.org. (Choose “Activities.” Then choose “Hiking, Walking and Running.”)
Hand-feed wild birds
From October through April, hand-feed wild birds at the feeding station in the West Woods in Novelty. Volunteers have reported as many as 60 chickadees in 20 minutes. The birdwatching section of the Geauga Park District website has instructions for getting birdseed from the nature center, as well as how to dress, where to stand, and what to expect.
Beartown Lakes (in Auburn Township) and Orchard Hills Parks (in Chesterland) have sledding hills. At Orchard Hills, sled in the dark by turning on the lights on the marked pole. Then, if you’re the last one out, turn the lights off when you go.
Snowmobiling is allowed on the Maple Highlands Trail and in Observatory Park, but both require a permit, which you can apply for online in the “snowmobiling” section of the “Activities” page at GeaugaParkDistrict.org.
Maple SugART Invitational
January 28 through April 28. Visit the West Woods Nature Center for an art show featuring upcycled galvanized steel sap buckets transformed into wildly creative artistic treasures honoring Geauga’s rich maple sugaring history.
Nearly every park has trails perfect for cross-country skiing. When the weather is right, Park District staff even groom for skiing along The Maple Highlands Trail between Mountain Run Station and Claridon Troy Road. Watch the Park District’s Facebook or Twitter accounts for real-time grooming updates.
Featuring 18 reservations with more than 100 hiking trails, eight lakefront parks and five nature centers, Cleveland Metroparks offers multiple free or low-cost programs for all ages. Stay up to date by visiting ClevelandMetroparks.com and by downloading the free Cleveland Metroparks mobile app at the website, or wherever you get your apps. Here are some of the winter options in the Cleveland Metroparks.
Complete 10 or 20 of the 30 trails to earn a sticker or stainless pint glass. Details at ClevelandMetroParks.com. Click on “Parks.” Scroll down till you see the Trail Challenge banner and info.
(For details on the following events, visit ClevelandMetroparks.com. Click “Parks.” Scroll down to “Featured Events” and click “More Events.” Then go to the desired calendar date for details on that event.)
Snowshoeing scavenger hunt
Jan. 17 (and other select dates throughout winter), at the Strawberry picnic area in North Chagrin Reservation. One-hour “try it” sessions at 10 a.m. and noon. (Or, hike if there’s no snow.) Cleveland Metroparks also hosts impromptu snowshoe and cross-country skiing programs when there is enough snow. On the website, sign up to receive alerts with details about these impromptu events.
Fireside Concert Series
Jan. 21 (and select dates through February). Get comfortable by the fire and enjoy performances by local bands at Look About Lodge in South Chagrin Reservation.
Saturdays year-round. A friendly, weekly 5k run/walk and outdoor social, at the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation.