By Mitch Pence
Darke County Parks
The warmth of summer has finally arrived! I’m sure we’re all looking forward to spending the next 4 months out in the sun. How do you like to enjoy your summers? Personally, I look forward to jumping on my bike and spending a few hours on the Tecumseh Bike Trail. Getting outside is a great way to boost your mental health and studies show that spending time in nature can improve attention, reduce stress, boost your mood, and lower the risk of depression. Aside from the mental benefits, outdoor recreation can also improve your physical health as well. Thankfully, Darke County has a fantastic park system with 13 parks and 14 miles of bike trail. I challenge all of you to visit each of the parks, hike the trails with a friend or your pup (on a leash of course) and see what each park has to offer.
Do you like to hike through quiet woodlands? Eidson Woods Preserve, Worth Family Nature Preserve, Coppess Nature Sanctuary, and Routzong Preserve each offer a unique forest to explore. Enjoy the babbling of Kraut Creek past large sycamores and maples at Eidson and follow the sound of the scenic Greenville Creek through Worth. On Earth Day this year, Coppess and Routzong even joined the national Old Growth Forest Network!
Are you a runner/jogger? Shawnee Prairie Preserve, Turkeyfoot Preserve, and Winterrowd Wetlands have fantastic prairie trails perfect for a trail run. In fact, if you haven’t signed up yet, registration is still open for the Raptor Run 5K on June 24th at 9am. This morning 5K will take place on the beautiful park trails of Shawnee Prairie Preserve. Run or walk through pristine prairies, under woodland canopies, and around wetland wildlife. Pass by iconic locations at Shawnee Prairie like the Sugar Shack, Log House, and Blacksmith Shop before returning to the finish line near the Nature Center. Our bird of prey ambassadors will be waiting for you! All proceeds from the 5K go towards the Darke County Parks Raptor Education program.
Are you a bicyclist? Cyclists of all skill levels can enjoy over 14 miles of bike trail across Darke County. Begin at the trailhead on Broadway in Greenville, near Garst Museum, and take the trail all the way to Alice Bish Park on Ohio Street. When you get there, you may notice a new portion of bike trail is being constructed along the edge of Ohio Street. This new, separated bike lane will make what was once an intimidating share-the-road portion of trail into designated bike trail! Just in time too, the second annual Tour de Darke bike tour will be kicking off on Sunday, August 6th so sign up today to join over 200 regional cyclists on a leisurely ride through the scenic countryside and quaint communities of Darke County.
Do you enjoy paddling? Whether you prefer a kayak or canoe, the scenic Greenville Creek offers great route options to get on the water and drift downstream under the summer sun. The boat ramp at Alice Bish Park is open to the public and perfect for launching if you are headed to Historic Bear’s Mill. Don’t have a boat of your own? Worry not! The Darke County Parks now offer kayak and canoe rentals out of the Bish Discovery Center on Ohio Street. Simply reserve your day and time online and have transportation for yourself prepared at Historic Bear’s Mill for when you finish your float. We provide life jackets, paddles, safety instructions and detailed updates of conditions on the creek, so even those with little experience can enjoy a day on the water. If you are still nervous or if you have never been in a kayak before, check our summer program listing for our public floats where you can join experienced naturalists on the creek.
There is something for everyone at the Darke County Parks. If you are looking for that shortcut to feeling healthier while enjoying your summer vacation, you can’t go wrong with spending time outside in nature! For questions about our parks, how to register for the 5K or bike tour, or how to rent a kayak/canoe, please call the Nature Center at (937) 548-0165, email us at [email protected] or visit our website www.darkecountyparks.org.