Nearly 150 miles of trails in the Metroparks offer places to unwind, explore, recreate and learn about nature.
But increased traffic and conflicting uses on the trials can lead to frustration for some hikers, bicyclists and dog walkers.
Starting Saturday – National Trails Day – and continuing through June, Metroparks rangers will focus additional patrols on the park district’s trail system. Special attention will be paid to the longer Wabash Cannon Ball Trail and University/Parks Trail, where fast-traveling bicycles have raised safety concerns.
“We have rules and regulations, but what’s most important on the trails is common courtesy,” said Joe Fausnaugh, chief ranger for Metroparks of the Toledo Area.
Some cyclists, Fausnaugh said, travel too fast to give a verbal warning when they are passing other users, so they use air horns, startling walkers and pets. Fausnaugh said rangers will be looking for cyclists traveling at excessive speed when other trail users are present and issuing citations if warranted.
Bicycles are permitted only on designated bike or all-purpose trails, he added.
Pearson Metropark in Oregon has more than 10 miles of trails, ranging from the less than a mile short loop of the Black Swamp Trail to a three-mile bike trail. Pearson also has an exercise trail that is just under three miles long. All of the trails begin at the Packer-Hammersmith Center.
In addition, there is the new extension of the Starr Avenue bikeway through the park and a new trail at Pearson North.
“What’s really nice at Pearson is that it has a separate trail dedicated to bicycles, so you have less congestion there than on the all-purpose trails at other parks. The Pearson trail is a fine-stone surface, which a lot of bicyclists like, too,” Metroparks public relations director Scott Carpenter said.
“As a bicyclists and Oregon resident myself, I like the Pearson bike trail because it takes you into the woods and has twists and dips that add variety to the ride. The fact that it’s accessible to the Starr Avenue bikeway is a huge plus.”
Running groups, such as high school athletic teams, are another source of complaints, particularly on weekday afternoons at Wildwood Preserve, Fausnaugh said. The park district issues permits for running groups, and has notified athletic directors about trail etiquette and regulations, such as running no more than two people abreast and passing on the left.
Dog walkers occasionally bring complaints, too, Mr. Fausnaugh said. Metroparks rules require dogs to be on leashes and under the control of their handler at all times. He said that retractable leashes that extend more than the legally-permitted 8 feet are a poor choice for walking dogs in the Metroparks because owners have less control, and lengthy leashes can be dangerous to passing bicyclists and other trail users.
“The bottom line is that everyone has a right to use the trails,” Mr. Fausnaugh said. “We want everyone from bird watchers to joggers and bicyclists to have a pleasant experience. We can't allow inconsiderate visitors to interfere with others' enjoyment of the parks, especially when there are safety considerations.”
Dave Zenk, superintendent of parks, said the best ambassadors for the trails are the users themselves. “Our staff and volunteers cannot be present at all times on almost 150 miles of trail, so we ask the trail users for help. Every park has a dedicated number to directly reach a park ranger on patrol. Those numbers are posted on signs at trailheads and on buildings.”
Metroparks also relies upon the 224 members of its Volunteer Trail Patrol, who are identified by yellow shirts and walk the trails to provide customer service to park visitors. The volunteers are trained in customer service, park district rules and regulations, first aid and CPR.
“America's 200,000 miles of trails allow us access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration, and much more,” states the website for the American Hiking Association, sponsor of National Trails Day. “Trails take us to good physical and mental health by providing us with a chance to breathe fresh air, get our hearts pumping and escape from our stresses.”
About Metroparks Trails
Metroparks of the Toledo Area maintains 148 miles of trails, ranging from primitive, dirt paths to stone or paved trails for walking, running bicycling and skating.
Trails in the nine Metroparks range in length from less than half a mile to the 16-mile hiking trail at Oak Openings Preserve. There are also 14.5 miles of horse trails at Oak Openings.
Metroparks also maintains and patrols three “greenway” trails: The University/Parks Trail in West Toledo; the Wabash Cannonball Trail in southwestern Lucas County; and the Towpath Trail, which connects Farnsworth, Bend View and Providence Metroparks along the Maumee River. Metroparks is also a partner in the recently-acquired, 11-mile Westside Corridor, which will some day connect north and south Toledo and Lucas and Wood Counties over the river.
Zenk said that using the trails is consistently listed as the No. 1 activity in the Metroparks when the park district surveys Lucas County residents.