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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

The Metroparks at 75

ON A hot summer morning, there is nothing quite so relaxing as a long leisurely walk or bicycle ride along the shady serpentine trails of any of the Toledo area's Metroparks.

The fact that eight of every 10 Lucas County residents visit one or more of the leafy sanctuaries at least once a year is testament to the vision of those who in 1928 organized to establish the county's first park system.

Now the parks, incorporated into what we know as the Metroparks District of the Toledo Area, are 75 years old. This anniversary is to be observed on Saturday with a celebratory picnic, although flooding along the Maumee River has limited the events to five of the eight major parks.

The occasion will mean more than free hamburgers, hotdogs, and soft drinks for all who attend. It's a thank-you to residents who have, through their tax dollars, generously supported a park system that has become one of the area's finest natural assets.

And it doubtless will be an opportunity for families to reacquaint themselves with parks they might not routinely visit.

Consider, for example, Secor Metropark, a 600-acre gem, hidden away in plain sight out along West Central Avenue. Like all the parks, it has trails and picnic areas, but it also has an arboretum and a new center for nature photography, where enthusiasts can rent a camera blind to capture native birds and wildlife on film.

Secor doesn't get the traffic of, say, its closer-in cousin, Wildwood Preserve, but it does showcase northwest Ohio's fragile ecosystems while providing an abundance of the tranquillity the public looks for when it ventures out of doors.

The metroparks system fashioned over three-quarters of a century was built originally from land that nobody wanted. It's hard to believe that the forest and sand dunes of Oak Openings Metropark, for example, once were considered “wastelands.”

Today, the parks, with 7,500 acres and more on the way, are enjoyed by 2.5 million visitors throughout all the splendid seasons of the year. Hiking and biking trails are continually being developed to connect the parks with each other and with new areas, such as the planned Fallen Timbers Battlefield.

Altogether, the metroparks system is a well-managed urban-suburban showcase of some of the finest recreational facilities in Ohio and perhaps the nation.

We should be proud to have the parks, and grateful for the forward-looking public stewardship through which they have been developed during the past 75 years.

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