COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Department of Natural Resources wants to help Ohioans "Get Fit Naturally" as they work toward the familiar New Year's Resolution to improve physical fitness.
When Ohio rings in 2009, individuals and families statewide will pledge to make physical health a top priority. Scrapping a sedentary lifestyle and committing to regular physical activity, such as walking, running and biking, is known to have substantial health benefits. Ohio State Parks offer numerous accessible areas where Ohioans can take part in many forms of recreation and exercise that will help them reach their goals. A membership is not required to take advantage of these free resources.
"Ohioans don't need to wait for the weather to warm up to get active outdoors," said Dan West, chief of Ohio State Parks. "There are many exciting winter sports and activities that people can enjoy at Ohio State Parks which will help them start building strong muscles, not to mention lasting memories."
TAKE A HIKE
Ohio State Parks offer more than 1,000 miles of trails that come in all lengths and levels of difficulty. They pass through many types of terrain, some weaving through adjacent state forests or nature preserves. A handful of trails even mesh with major trails systems, including the Buckeye Trail or North Country Scenic Trail. Some winter hikes are listed:
Jan. 17 - Winter Hike, Hocking Hills State Park, 9 a.m. at Old Man's Cave parking lot. Lunch and refreshments served. (740) 385-6841.
Jan. 18 - Winter Hike, Mohican State Park, 10 a.m. at the camp store. Soup and refreshments to follow. (419) 994-5125.
Feb. 7 - 29th Annual Buckeye Trail Winter Hike, Findley State Park, 10 a.m. at the nature center. Scenic 5-k or 10-k hike. Soup, cornbread and cake served after hike. (440) 647-5749.
Feb. 21 - Winter Hike for Health, Malabar Farm State Park, 10 a.m. at the visitor center. (419) 892-2784.
Feb. 21 - Winter Hike, Hueston Woods State Park, 11 a.m. meet at the nature center and caravan to the Big Woods for a guided hike. (513) 524-4250.
Feb. 21 - Winter Hike, Caesar Creek State Park, 4-mile self-guided hike. Continuous starts from 10 a.m. until noon from the Wellman Meadows boat ramp off Oregonia Road (513) 897-2437.
LET IT SNOW
There are over 260 miles of multiple use trails at 33 Ohio State Parks where visitors can cross-country ski. If conditions permit, many parks may allow skiing where there are expanses of open areas such as picnic areas, shoreline areas and golf courses. Ski rentals are available at certain parks. Following are some skiing workshops:
Jan. 17 - Cross-country skiing workshop, Malabar Farm State Park, 10 a.m. $30 fee includes equipment rental. Pre-registration required. (419) 892-2784.
Jan. 24 - Cross-country skiing workshop, Malabar Farm State Park, 10 a.m. $30 fee includes equipment rental. Pre-registration required. (419) 892-2784.
Feb. 7 - Cross-country skiing workshop, Malabar Farm State Park, noon. $30 fee includes equipment rental. Pre-registration required. (419) 892-2784.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
It's important to keep fitness goals in mind for the entire family, children included. Ohio State Parks are great places to get the kids outside and active. Forty state parks have sledding hills and seven have small ponds or outdoor rinks for ice skating.
Geneva State Park lodge will host the annual Women in the Outdoors Winter Event on January 24. The fun, hands-on outdoor skills program (for women only) gives ladies a chance to learn about and try a variety of winter activities. Pre-registration and fee required. Call (216) 362-1072 for information.
"Ohioans should take advantage of these and other fun, physical activities offered at Ohio State Parks," said West. "The enriching experiences encourage children and adults to reengage in and rediscover the natural world."
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at www.ohiodnr.com.