Peaceful Parks While Social Distancing

Blog Date
Julie Smith
Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

 Canada Goose in Cleveland Metroparks on March 20, 2020
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Spring 2020 coronavirus-related closings -- how it all started for us...

  • Wednesday, March 11th - received an email from the Cleveland Metroparks Outdoor Recreation division announcing that this year’s Adventure University & Gear Swap was canceled.

  • Thursday, March 12th - while Stuart was doing volunteering tutoring at Cleveland Metropolitan School District (@CLEMetroSchools), he was told by the Charles Dickens Elementary School principal that Friday would the last day of classes for at least three weeks.

  • Friday, March 13th - received an email from the executive director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition with bad news, which in the coming days became even worse!!


This blog post will share how we used our fantastic, local parks to deal with coronavirus-related stress starting, on Monday, March 16, 2020. An important part of health is mental health -- go for a walk for both physical and mental health!

We include information in this blog post about using the parks safely during this crisis, and resources to learn more about local parks. We have also included tweets about local restaurants from which we got food "to-go," on our way to or from the parks. It is important to support local business where possible at this time.

We want to thank our local park systems for their work to provide a safe place to explore.



Safety in Our Parks during the Coronavirus Crisis

Safe Practices When Visiting Cleveland Metroparks During Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
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The above image contains some good advice about how to safely use our parks during the coronavirus crisis, but we highly recommend going to the parks' web pages to check for updates, as the situation keeps changing.

Currently, all the parks have direct links to their special COVID-19 information web page on the home page of their website:


Here is a COVID-19 safety video that the Cleveland Metroparks created that we highly recommend. Again, this is current information as of March 26, 2020 -- go to the Cleveland Metroparks website for updates.


Here are our @sos_jr tweets and retweets of COVID-19 information that we shared on Twitter. Please share them with your Twitter followers by retweeting, and read the information to be better educated about being safe in our parks!



Discovering Northeast Ohio parks

Sadly, during this coronavirus crisis, entertainment and cultural venues have been closed. Visiting parks has been deemed an essential activity by Governor DeWine, and we are VERY fortunate to have many great park systems in northeast Ohio within a short drive.

We recommend you read the following article for a great list of local park resources:

 Here is also a great article about ethics and outdoor activities:


Here are our @sos_jr tweets and retweets sharing what we have learned about local parks by following interesting people/organizations on Twitter. Please share the outdoor joy and information with your Twitter followers by retweeting!



In the next section of this blog post, we share information about the parks we have visited since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis:


Monday, March 16, 2020 - Acacia Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks

Acacia Reservation, a 155-acre green space oasis, is located in the City of Lyndhurst. The west branch of Euclid Creek flows northwest through Acacia Reservation to join the main creek branch in Euclid Creek Reservation. A 1.7-mile paved loop trail is located in the Reservation, and the building at the main entrance is currently available to rent for programming and events.

While March 16, 2020, was only a couple of days into the social distancing order for Ohio, we found that people were already following the recommendation. We received a "social distance hello" from friendly people in the park. On our way home from the park, we had an enjoyable dinner at home -- take-out, supporting a local, family-owned restaurant.



Friday, March 20, 2020 - North Chagrin Reservation - Cleveland Metroparks

Since the 1920s, North Chagrin Reservation has been a special combination of outdoor recreation areas and wildlife sanctuaries. North Chagrin trails and picnic areas feature woodlands and wetlands as important characteristics of this large reservation. Located in Mayfield Village, Willoughby Hills and Gates Mills, the reservation includes a nature center and nature education building. Sanctuary Marsh and Sunset Pond are both popular areas to observe waterfowl, and Squire’s Castle is an interesting historical site. The reservation is also home to Manakiki Golf Course, located off SOM Center and Eddy roads in Willoughby Hills.

While at the Cleveland Metroparks North Chagrin Reservation, we were very impressed to watch two guys who were using the parcourse fitness trail cleaning the bars with alcohol wipes!



Saturday, March 21, 2020 - CANCELED! Cleveland Metroparks Adventure University & Gear Swap 2020

Since we did not get to go to Adventure University & Gear Swap 2020, we still wanted to include information about this great event.

Stuart had been asked to speak at Adventure University about his 600+ mile backpacking trip in the southern desert of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019, but was not able to do so. Learn more about Adventure University by reading our blog post about last year's event:



Sunday, March 22, 2020 - Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park - Summit Metro Parks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Deep Lock Quarry is a wealth of history from ancient American Indian trails, pioneer quarrying, narrow gauge railroads and hobo jungles. It became a Metro Park in 1934. Within the park is Lock 28, the deepest lock at 17’ on the Ohio & Erie Canal. The early State Quarry provided blocks of Berea sandstone for the canal locks and other local structures. Ferdinand Schumacher harvested the sandstone for millstones to remove the outer hulls of oats. Schumacher is credited with introducing oatmeal to America by supplying it to Union troops during the Civil War. He purchased a portion of the quarry in 1879 to ensure his profits and later became one of the founders of Akron's American Cereal Works (later Quaker Oats). Stone was last taken from the quarry in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to construct several Metro Parks facilities, including Pioneer Shelter in Goodyear Heights Metro Park.

Today, the park is an Important Bird Area and critical habitat for nesting migrants and ongoing research of hybrid warblers. Walking along the trail, it’s hard to believe most of the forest was cleared during the quarrying days. Nature has reclaimed the land, and today it is home to more Ohio buckeye trees than any other Metro Park in Summit County. Resident frogs, turtles and salamanders live in the old canal bed.

A shallow swamp has developed on the quarry floor, where rose pink (an herb) and other wetland plants are growing from the natural seeps of water in the porous sandstone.

Because it was a Sunday in a popular park, but we found the park very busy. We had hiked to the remains of the quarry in the past, from the Ohio & Erie Canalway towpath (which is part of the Buckeye Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park), but this was the first time hiking from the Deep Lock Quarry parking area. Despite being an area with many people, we found that everyone was being respectful of maintaining distance with others. Of all the parks we visited since the coronavirus crisis started, this is the only one where crowds were an issue.



Sunday, March 22, 2020 - Blue Hen Falls - Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Conservancy for CVNP)

Because of the short and easy nature of the trail, you can knock out a good hike in 30-40 minutes’ time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t linger. Blue Hen Falls makes for a great family hike, filled with lush surroundings and one of Cuyahoga Valley’s most beautiful, famous waterfalls. Nature lovers, photographers, and artists are going to love it, too—so if you’re a trekker who arrives here sans camera or sketchbook, only to be enchanted by your surroundings, we can only say that the odds you’ll come back for an encore are pretty good.

After visiting Deep Lock Quarry, we went for a walk to see beautiful Blue Hen Falls, which on the Buckeye Trail on the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (link goes to the Conservancy for CVNP website for more information.)



Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - Hell Hollow Wilderness Area - Lake Metroparks

Hell Hollow Wilderness Area has a high cliff top with a loop trail and 262 timber steps that provide a dramatic descent to the creek valley. The more than 100-foot-deep ravine was carved thousands of years ago by Paine Creek after glaciers retreated from Ohio.

This park offers impressive views of the 360-million-year-old Chagrin Shale cliff above a deep river valley. The name Hell Hollow—according to all known accounts—simply refers to the steep, rugged slopes that made it difficult to access and leave the “hollow.”

Audubon Ohio has designated this park as an Important Bird Area.

Stuart had visited the Lake Metroparks Hell Hollow Wilderness Area for the first time while it was deep in snow on February 15, 2020 (click here to see winter photos/videos on Twitter). It was recommended as a good place to get in shape by wearing a full backpack on the stairs going down into the 100-foot-deep ravine and back up.

Julie counted and confirmed that there are 262 steps up, as we returned from a long hike to one of the waterfalls on Paine Creek.



Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - Orchard Hills Park - Geauga Park District



This 237-acre park, formerly managed as a golf course, is in the process of reclaiming a natural landscape. Six trails total 3.6 miles. Children can have fun here on an orchard-themed playground, as well as a primo sledding hill during winter months. Restoration has been funded in part through a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act.

We had never been to Geauga Park District's Orchard Hills Park, which is near Patterson Fruit Farm. It was sad to see that the playground was now closed (as were all other playgrounds in Ohio by this date, by order of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine), but it was good to see people enjoying the trails and fishing in the pond.

As we bushwhacked to see a creek on the western part of the property, Julie found a couple of golf balls from the time when the area used to be a golf course. We left the golf balls where we found them, thinking that some children might enjoy finding them as they learn the history of the property, which is now being reclaimed by nature.



On March 27, 2020, we shared on Twitter as @sos_jr how sad it was that the playground needed to be closed due to the coronavirus crisis, but were pleased to see people interested in the Orchard Hills Park playground once it reopens.



Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Park - Geauga Park District



This 65-acre park attracts wildlife with its diverse habitats. Three trails total 1 mile, and children can have fun on a playground.

Chagrin River Watershed Partners worked with Geauga Park District to incorporate this priority project to improve habitat and water quality into a state and federally approved watershed plan, which also made this project eligible for grant funding.

Walking on the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Park boardwalk reminded Stuart of a section of the Appalachian Trail that he hiked in Pennsylvania in 2019. Good memories for him.

(cryingSad to read while writing this section of this blog post that the National Park Service just closed all overnight shelters administered by the Appalachian National Trail Park Office.)


Sad news from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (@AT_Conservancy) which we just read while writing this section of this blog post! (Stuart is a Life Member of the ATC.):



Thursday, March 26, 2020 - The West Woods - Geauga Park District

This 902-acre park protects the historic sandstone ledges of Ansel’s Cave, Silver Creek and its watershed, extensive wetlands and mature forests. The West Woods Nature Center is a popular attraction with its large wildlife feeding area and hands-on interpretive displays. Nine trails total 6.95 miles. Its name come from a story published in 1885: A.G. Riddle’s The Young Sugar Makers of The West Woods, which takes place at this very location.

We go to the The West Woods Nature Center every year, but had never hiked on the trails on the west end of the property. We had no idea that the property was this large. We hiked the 2.7 mile Pioneer Bridle Trail loop, and took part of the 1.1 mile Affelder Link to the 0.25 mile Falls Trail.



Friday, March 27, 2020 - Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve & Marina - City of Mentor, Ohio

Escape to the tranquility of nature at its best and explore the beauty of an unspoiled beach and miles of hiking and water trails. You’ll be rewarded with countless wildlife encounters and bird sightings.

Located on the shores of Lake Erie, the property that encompasses a total of 450-acres, was purchased by the City of Mentor in 1997 and 1998 in order to save it from a proposed private development. It includes not only the nature preserve, but the adjacent Mentor Lagoons Marina, that accommodates up to 500 boats along its crescent-shaped, open waterways.

Mentor’s 230-acre nature preserve includes 1-1/2 miles of shoreline with rare dune plants, a riverine marsh and mature oak bluff. Located on the western boundary of the 691-acre Mentor Marsh State Nature Preserve, the property contains the greatest diversity of wetland communities within the marsh basin, and serves as an important breeding and nursery area for fish and waterfowl and an extremely popular resting place for neo-tropical birds and butterflies as they migrate each year.

. . .

Nature Trails

Over three miles of hiking trails encircle the Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve providing four distinctly different vistas: a view of the Mentor Lagoons Marina, Mentor Marsh, upland forest and Lake Erie shoreline.

Trails are open to the public from dawn to dusk. Trails vary in terrain. Signs are posted throughout the nature preserve to direct visitors through the trail system.

We have both hiked on the paths here, to the view of Lake Erie, on October 28, 2018. On November 4, 2018, Stuart rode his bike here while doing a large section of the Buckeye Trail in Lake County, starting at its northern terminus at Headlands Beach State.


We saw the video Be Part of the Solution on the City of Mentor's website, and thought it had interesting advice, so we added the tweet with the video here:



Friday, March 27, 2020 - Headlands Beach State Park - Ohio State Parks / Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve - ODNR Division of Natural Areas & Preserves / Mentor Marsh - Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The trademark of Headlands Beach State Park is its mile-long natural sand beach, the largest in the state. In addition to its popularity during the summer season with picnickers and swimmers, the area is home to many plant species typically found only along the Atlantic Coast, including American beach grass, coastal little bluestem, and beach pea. The beach and dunes attract many migrating songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, gulls and Monarch butterflies.

The northern terminus of the Buckeye Trail and much more can be found in the Headlands Beach State Park area! In addition to the headlands, the Mentor Marsh and Carol H. Sweet Nature Center, managed by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, is nearby. Learn more in our blog post about the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Mentor Marsh:



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