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Trekking through time: Summit County celebrates 60th anniversary of Fall Hiking Spree

A sign advertising the fall hiking spree sits in a field at the entrance of Springfield Bog Metro Park.
Emma MacNiven
/
Ideastream Public Media
A sign advertising the fall hiking spree sits at the entrance of Springfield Bog Metro Park September 11, 2023.

Summit County Metro Parks is celebrating its 60th annual fall hiking challenge by displaying signs of hikers’ favorite memories on the trails.

A group of vivid, purple and yellow Alpine Aster flowers sit in a field amongst goldenrods and other weeds.
Emma MacNiven
/
Ideastream Public Media
A group of Alpine Aster flowers sit along the Prairie Trail at Springfield Bog Metro Park September 11, 2023.

During the hiking challenge, officially known as the Summit County Fall Hiking Spree, residents and nonresidents can sign up to complete eight of 14 designated hikes in the county Metro Parks between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30. to receive rewards.

The program theme, “60 years of memories,” commemorates the hikers who’ve participated in the tradition every fall since 1964. It’s the longest-running program of its kind in the country, the Metro Parks said.

Two people walk side by side on a trail surrounded by goldenrods and other weeds.
Emma MacNiven
/
Ideastream Public Media
Two people walk side by side along the Prairie Trail at Springfield Bog Metro Park September 11, 2023.

The program was started to encourage people to hike trails they haven’t explored before, said Claire Merrick, the park's marketing and public relations manager.

“It was really just [started] to get people outside of their comfort zones and kind of incentivize them to explore all the parks have to offer,” said Merrick. “People get comfortable visiting a park that’s local to them or a favorite trail. All of our parks are so different and just have so many different things to see and explore. All of our native plants can vary park to park.”

A sign advertising the fall hiking spree's "60's Years of Memories" sits along a trail.
Emma MacNiven
/
Ideastream Public Media
A sign advertising a story from the "60's Years of Memories" sits along the Prairie Trail at Springfield Bog Metro Park September 11, 2023.

There are around 225 “Heritage Hikers” who started the hiking spree between 1964 to 1975.

The parks installed signs displaying memories from some of these hikes along the trails. Hikers can interact with the stories by using smartphones to scan the QR codes on the signs.

“In commemoration of our 60th spree, we are showcasing the personal experiences and stories of several individuals and groups who have participated in the spree in the past,” said Merrick.

First-time participants who complete all eight hikes before November 30 will get a hiking staff and a metal shield. Returning participants who complete the hikes will get a metal shield to add to their collection. Dogs who finish the program will also get a shield to adorn their collars.

Hikes can be completed at participants’ own schedule, although they offer guided hikes like the full moon and history hikes. Four of the original hikes from the first spree in 1964 are included on the list of hikes to choose from this year.

The program is free for all Summit County residents. Out-of-county residents must pay a fee to participate ($10 for first-year hikers and $5 for returning hikers). The program drew in 13,773 participants in 2022, according to Merrick.

To sign up, go online to summitcountymetroparks.org or visit any Acme Fresh Market location or Summit County Metro Parks nature and visitors center.

A map detailing the locations of the hikes being offered for this years hiking spree in Summit County.
Summit County Metro Parks
A map of the hike offerings for this years hiking spree in Summit County.

Emma MacNiven is a senior journalism student at Kent State University.