“During 2020, MetroParks of Butler County welcomed more people into the park system than ever before. Vehicle and visitor count numbers rocketed well beyond 1 million visitor occasions through the end of November, with the December numbers yet to come,” Barkley said.
“What makes this data particularly impressive is that the count only includes visitor occasions from the large regional parks where traffic counters were previously installed or were recently installed. Those recently installed have not even been able to provide a full year of data yet. Additionally, parks without traffic counters are not included. Considering the recently installed counters and parks without counters, the total number of visitor occasions would have been even higher,” she said.
While the park experience is different in the winter than at other times of the year, residents can still take in the beauty of nature in a number of ways.
“The trees have dropped their foliage and can be more easily identified. Birds are easily spotted in flight or on bushes and trees. Many plants and animals are hibernating, but animals’ tracks can be spotted in the soil or in the snow. You can see the crystallization of puddles of water or view the frost on resting trees and plants. My favorite thing, though, is a silent winter hike and the crunch of making the first steps in freshly fallen snow, Barkley said.
Among its greatest benefits, Barkley said, spending time outdoors in nature promotes mental and physical health.
According to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), she said, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shed an even bigger light on the essential role of parks and recreation in supporting physical and mental health. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was clear that there was one thing that people could still enjoy the outdoors during the pandemic, while still adhering to the necessary guidelines provided as critical for reducing the spread of the virus. Early on, the NRPA began collecting data via a weekly survey of park professionals that confirmed these findings.
In surveys conducted by the NRPA, “83 percent of adults expressed finding exercising at park, trails, and open spaces essential to maintaining their mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic. 59 percent of respondents said it was very or extremely essential to exercise in parks and green spaces to relieve stress and remain healthy during this crisis.”
“Even before these findings were announced MetroParks had already swiftly prioritized its available resources and focused on keeping all of its parks, trails, and greens spaces, normally available to park customer/owners, open. The park system has never been busier,” Barkley said.
Here are some of the opportunities at MetroParks of Butler County
Sled Riding at MetroParks “Chill Hills”:
· Voice of America MetroPark, 7850 VOA Park Drive, West Chester
· Rentschler Forest MetroPark, Reigart Road Area, 5701 Reigart Road, Fairfield Township
Walks on a multipurpose paved trails to experience winter, visit one of the following locations:
· Voice of America MetroPark, Lake Trail, 7850 VOA Park Drive, West Chester
· Rentschler Forest MetroPark, Great Miami River Trail, Reigart Road Area, 5701 Reigart Road, Fairfield Township
· Forest Run MetroPark, Timberman Ridge Trail, Timberman Ridge Area, 1976 Timberman Rd., Hamilton
· Bicentennial Commons, Great Miami River Trail, 120 S. Carmody Blvd, Middletown
Walks on natural trails to experience winter:
· Rentschler Forest MetroPark, The Cascade Trail, Reigart Road Area, 5701 Reigart Road, Fairfield Township
· Forest Run MetroPark, The Grand Circle Trail, Timberman Ridge Area, 1976 Timberman Rd., Hamilton
· Elk Creek MetroPark, Twin Lakes Trail, Meadow Ridge Area, 5101 Circle Parkway, Middletown