The nation behaves well if it treats its natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value.
― Theodore Roosevelt
Every city has a park for which to be proud; a place that is the iconic green space for its cosmopolitan citizenry. Swope in Kansas City, Central in New York, Grant in Chicago, even Kensington Gardens in London all fit the bill. Here in our region, we have 17…and counting.
With 12,000 acres, the Metroparks Toledo have been connecting citizens to nature since the 1930s. Last year the parks received 5 million visitors. Recent acquisitions of land ensure further growth, with the Metropark’s stated goal of every citizen living within 5 miles of a park.
More Than a Walk in the Park
We all think we know something about parks. A playground, a few picnic benches, maybe a shelter, and if you are lucky a paved loop around the grounds for walking or jogging. Throw in some trees and a few birds and bugs and the park experience is complete.
With the Metroparks, that preconceived vision doesn’t even cover the basics. Walking, running, jogging, and biking are just a start. Many parks include both indoor and outdoor meeting areas, stretching and exercise areas, open recreation fields, and some of the best nature exploration opportunities anywhere in the country. Several parks are directly connected to the water offering boating, paddling, and fishing. And yes, there are picnic benches, birds, and bugs. Metroparks are still parks after all.
Finally, the Metropark calendar is filled with programming including nature education, safety, recreational activity training, even musical performances.
Perhaps the best-kept secret of the Metroparks is their determined effort to protect our areas natural resources. Besides serving the vital function of allowing urban bound citizenry to explore the outdoors, the Metroparks mission is to preserve these vital areas for future generations.
With a tag line like “Get Outside Yourself”, nothing is a better call to action for the spring and summer.
Camping and Cabins
One of the hidden features of the Metropark system is its incredible system of camp grounds and cabins. There aren’t many, but they are beautiful, close, and situated in lush green spaces. Two are horse friendly, which in of itself is amazing. Reservations are a must, but the cost is extremely reasonable.
- Caretakers Cottage (Oak Openings Metropark): Facilities for 8 overnight up to 12 outdoors until 11 PM
- Wiregrass Lake Campground (Winegrass Lake Metropark): 3 individual campgrounds, tent camping
- Farnsworth Campground (Farnsworth Metropark): 2 individual and 1 group site, tent camping
- White Oak Campground (Oak Openings Metropark): Eight individual and two group campsites. Tent Camping. Two campsites are horse rider friendly and have their own coral.
- Springbrook Campground (Oak Openings Metropark): A second camp ground at O. Openings. Tent camping and horse facilities. Check website for access, which is limited from the main road.
- Pine Ridge Chalet: (Oak Openings Metropark): 5 overnight and up to 10 outdoors until 11 PM. Five parking spots total.
- Granger Island Cabin (Farnsworth Metropark): Access primarily by canoe or kayak. Sleeps 5 overnight with up to 3 additional guests until two hours before dusk.
- Granger Island Tent Platforms (Farnsworth Metropark): Access primarily by canoe or kayak. Two campsites.
Indoor Shelters and Meeting Facilities
Metropark shelters offer an amazing alternative to the traditional catering venue or meeting hall. They are, of course, more charming. They also have a variety of services and amenities that are well worth looking into. More importantly, they add a degree of both distinction and variety to any event by offering the full services of the park they reside in. Costs and times vary and reservations are, of course, a must.
- Secor Room (Secor Metropark): Indoors, capacity 80
- Roche de Bout Shelter (Farnsworth Metropark): Indoors, capacity 38
- Packer-Hammersmith Center (Pearson Metropark): Indoor, capacity 45
- Oak Openings Lodge (Oak Openings Metropark): Indoor, capacity 80
- Macomber Lodge (Pearson Metropark): Indoor, capacity 100
- Lamb Center (Side Cut Metropark): Indoor, capacity 30
- Indianola Shelter Area (Farnsworth Metropark): Indoor, capacity 43
- Farmhouse at Wildwood (Wildwood Metropark): Indoor, capacity 50
- Fallen Timbers Battlefield Rental Facility (Fallen Timbers Battlefield & Ft. Miamis): Indoor, capacity 60
- Buehner Center (Oak Openings Metropark): Indoor, capacity 75
- Ward Pavilion (Wildwood Metropark): Indoor, capacity 150
- Yager Center (Swan Creek Metropark): Indoor, capacity 50
- Brookwood (Brookwood Area Metropark): Indoor, capacity 60
- Crosby Conference Center (Toledo Botanical Gardens): Indoor, capacity 100
Picnic Areas and Shelters
Having events outside in a park is about as Americana as it gets, and the Metroparks offer a great variety of picnic options. Most are open on all 4 sides but some are partially enclosed. Like the parks themselves, each shelter varies in its services and capacity along with accessibility and parking. It is important to check on the specific shelter and make reservations.
- Ball field (Pearson Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 70, small grills
- Rotary House (Middlegrounds Metropark): Open Air Shelter, capacity 50, grills, electricity
- Timber Shelter (Farnsworth Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 32, gas grill
- Walnut Grove Shelter (Secor Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 60, grill
- Tennis Court Shelter (Pearson Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 125, 4 grills
- Providence Dam Shelter (Providence Metropark): Covered, partial enclosed, capacity 80
- Riverview Shelter (Side Cut Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 75, 2 grills
- Playground Shelter (Pearson Metropark): Covered and partial enclosed, capacity 70, grill
- Miami Shelter (Providence Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 50
- Meadowview Shelter (Secor Metropark): Covered, open, no capacity listed but six 8’ tables
- Meadowhawk Shelter (Wiregrass Lake Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 20
- Maumee Rotary Pavilion (Side Cut Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 100, grills, electrical
- Mary Jane Gill Shelter (Swan Creek Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 100, grills
- Mallard Lake Shelter (Oak Openings Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 100, grill
- Lone Oak Shelter (Secor Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 70, grills, fireplace
- Homestead Shelter (Pearson Metropark): Covered, open with retractable wall panels, capacity 36, kitchenette, electrical, water/sink
- Erie Shelter (Providence Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 50
- Bend View Shelter (Bend View Metropark): Covered and partially enclosed, capacity 25, fireplace
- Whitetail Shelter (Wildwood Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 60, grill
- Turkey Foot Shelter (Westwinds Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 20, grill
- Black Swamp Shelter (Pearson Metropark): Covered, open, capacity 50
Each Metropark has at least some play equipment but several of parks offer more robust play areas. Putting the kids in the car and venturing afield to a different park is a great way to kill a lazy summer day, picnic with the family, and in general have an engaging yet cost effective time.
- Walnut Grove Playground (Secor Metropark): With the Walnut Grove shelter just a few yard away, this playground is equipped usual kids stuff on a wood mulch and rubber matting. It isn’t too “big” so little ones are easily watched after and not intimidated.
- Wildwood Playground (Wildwood Metropark): Turtles, frogs, butterflies and in general a nature theme accompany one of the bigger play areas in the system. Designed for kids of all ages, Wildwood has picnic areas close by along with a large rec area close by. This is a great play area for a day trip.
- Farnsworth Playground (Farnsworth Metropark): Celebrating a local fault line in the earth’s crust, Farnsworth is located close to the boat launch area.
- Swan Creek Playground (Swan Creek Metropark, Glendale Entrance): One of the best parts of this playground is that it is right in the heart of the south end, making it convenient. Swan Creek is also one of the more “compact” of the park system, making it manageable as well. It features some of the park district’s tallest slides and a net tower.
- Oak Openings Playground (Oak Openings Metropark): Many of us think of Oak Openings as a celebration of a unique and diverse ecosystem. It also has a cool playground that includes the usual equipment plus a cool zip line and large hill with at-grade slides.
- Pearson Playground (Pearson Metropark): There is lots to explore at Pearson but the playground is visually stunning as well as fun. Interactive is the key plus a smaller playground for those little ones who need less size to truly enjoy their experience.
- Side Cut Playground (Side Cut Metropark): First, it is Sidecut along the river so there is that. The playground is actually two areas including a “big lot” and “tot lot”. Located close to the river trail.
- Secor Barrier Free Playground (Secor Metropark): Designed with accessibility in mind the play area features seated play, hand cycler, and slide transfers for easy access to ride down slides. Soft surfacing is emphasized throughout the play area.
Boat Launches and Water Access
Spring and summer just naturally imply water and our Metroparks offer several options for those that think relaxing also means getting wet. Besides boat launches, several of the parks offer excellent paddling programs to learn basic skills and safety or become a more advanced paddler. Make sure to check the park calendar and make reservations. Classes are limited in size. For more details check out this paddling program FAQ
- Side Cut Metropark Boat Launch: Located under the I-475 bridge with a roll-off dock available at Silver Lake
- Wiregrass Metropark Boat Launch: Located right on Wiregrass lake with rollers for ease of launch and return. A hub for paddling sports and fishing.
- Farnsworth Metropark Boat Launch: Allows access directly to the Maumee river and overlooks Missionary Island.
- Maumee River Water Trail: Although not just associated the Metroparks, the trail stretches 107 miles from Lake Erie to the Ohio-Indiana area with access from 39 locations. Once you get your skills honed with park classes explore the Maumee!
We all know about the Walley Run. We also know you can rent time on a charter and get out on Lake Erie. However, for those just looking for a quiet experience in a beautiful setting or a manageable fishing excursion for the beginner, the Metroparks have several options. Of course, all Ohio fishing regulations apply and are strictly enforced. Many of the parks have both boat access or simple docks and platforms to get a hook in the water. Metroparks that offer fishing opportunities include:
- Farnsworth Metropark
- Providence Metropark
- Wiregrass Lake Metropark
- Pearson Metropark
- Blue Creek Metropark
- Oak Openings Preserve Metropark
- Side Cut Metropark
One of the most endearing features of the Metropark system is its planning and design; not just by intra-park but inter-park. And nothing shows this meticulous design concept like the interconnected regional bike trails. Besides each park having biking options, the interconnected trails between areas of town and parks make for longer adventures. Biking is a fast-growing activity that has exercise “legs”, which sounds like a pun but means a lifelong activity.
- Towpath Trail (Farnsworth Metropark, Bend View Metropark, Providence Metropark): 8 miles
- University/Parks Trail (University of Toledo, Wildwood Metropark, Kind Road): 6.3 miles
- Wabash-Cannonball Trail (Side Cut Metropark, Fallen Timbers Battlefield, Oak Openings Preserve): 9 miles on the north fork, 10 miles on the south fork.
- Chessie Circle Trail (Connecting North and South Toledo along dormant rail line).