Kristin Wroblewski of Toledo, at left with dogs, stops to talk with Ann and Dick Hamilton as the two volunteers patrol the trails in Wildwood Metropark on Central Avenue in Toledo.
Glenn Holmes and Glenn Fennell like to bike. Lora Holmes and Ann Hamilton always walk. And Richard Hamilton sometimes dons cross-country skis.
All five - the Holmeses of Sylvania Township, Mr. Fennell of Springfield Township, and the Hamiltons of Toledo - treasure the Toledo Area Metroparks.
And all devote at least 50 hours a year as members of the Metroparks' Volunteer Trail Patrol, assisting park visitors, keeping watch of trail conditions, and alerting staff to problems.
"I use the park a lot," said Mr. Holmes, who patrols Oak Openings Preserve and Secor on his bike, as well as Farnsworth and the Towpath Trail leading to Bend View and Providence. "If you have something, you owe something as a payback."
And providing volunteer service gives patrol members benefits, too, some said.
"It's an excuse to go for a walk," said Mrs. Hamilton, who patrols on foot at Wildwood Preserve. "We meet a lot of people."
The metroparks has 161 volunteers from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan in its trail patrol program, and it is holding informational meetings this month to try to attract more. All metroparks have some Volunteer Trail Patrol members, but there especially is a need at Pearson, Farnsworth/Providence, and Side Cut, said Lori Miller, metroparks coordinator of volunteer services.
Patrol volunteers explain rules to visitors, impart information from naturalists, help spot trail trouble areas after storms, and perform other tasks as metropark usage grows, Ms. Miller said.
Many are retirees, she said.
"They've logged 10,000 hours this year alone, which is really impressive," Ms. Miller said. "We rely on it really for so many aspects of customer service."
She added: "It's at no cost to them, and it's invaluable to us."
After being interviewed in February, volunteer applicants will receive training in March and April on assisting visitors, park rules, first aid, CPR, and other aspects of patrolling. They also will get T-shirts and sweatshirts identifying them as being on trail patrol.
Metroparks started the Volunteer Trail Patrol at Wildwood Preserve in 2003. It added Oak Openings a year later, followed by Swan Creek Preserve and Pearson in 2005.
Volunteers must be able to patrol trails on foot, bike, or horseback in two- to four-hour shifts for a total of 50 hours in a 12-month period. They also must attend at least two of three refresher meetings a year.
Mr. Holmes encouraged Mr. Fennell to join the patrol after seeing him frequently biking. At first Mr. Fennell didn't think he could meet the time requirement, but he is up to volunteering more than 130 hours a year.
"It's great to be outdoors," said Mr. Fennell, who mostly patrols at Oak Openings. "It's great for exercise, and it's nice to meet people."
Informational sessions will be held at the following times and places:
•7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 13 in the Yager Center, Swan Creek Preserve Metropark, 4659 Airport Hwy., Toledo.
•3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Packer-Hammersmith Center, Pearson Metropark, 761 Lallendorf Rd., Oregon.
•7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Secor Room in National Center for Nature Photography, Secor Metropark, 10001 West Central Ave., Richfield Township.
•3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 31 in Metroparks Hall, Wildwood Preserve Metropark, 5100 West Central Ave., Sylvania Township.
For more information, call 419-407-9713.