Health department, park district partner for fall hiking program

Press Staff Writer

        The Park District of Ottawa County is teaming up with the Ottawa County Health Department to offer an new Outdoor Hiking Challenge program kicking off Sept. 1 and continuing through Nov. 30.
        The Outdoor Hiking Challenge program highlights the ample outdoor recreation destinations throughout Ottawa County and invites participants to hike at least eight out of 12 locations to earn an Outdoor Hiking Challenge logoed winter hat.
        The self-guided hikes are done on the honor system and feature 12 destinations throughout Ottawa County for participants to complete and record on an Outdoor Hiking Challenge form. Sites include East Harbor State Park in Marblehead, Meadowbrook Marsh in Danbury Township, Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve in Catawba Island Township, the North Coast Inland Trail in Elmore and Genoa, Veterans Park in Oak Harbor, Massie Cliffside Preserve in Put-in-Bay Township, and many more locales that will showcase seasonal beauty and invite people to get outside and explore Ottawa County.
        Signs with a QR Code to the Outdoor Hiking Challenge webpage will be set up at each of the 12 destination sites, and participants are encouraged to like and share their participation on social media using #outdoorhikingchallenge. As they complete each hike, participants are asked to record their activities on the challenge form, which will be made available on the Park District of Ottawa County website,, within the Home tab starting Sept. 1, and at the Park District of Ottawa County office, located at 3979 E. Knoll Crest Dr. in Port Clinton.
        Forms will also be available starting Sept. 1 at the Ottawa County Health Department, located at 1856 E. Perry St. in Port Clinton and at these additional locations from Sept. 1-Nov. 30:
        • Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, 14000 SR 2, Oak Harbor.
        • Local libraries in Ottawa County.
        • Senior centers in Ottawa County.
        Completed forms must be received by Dec. 8 to earn a winter hat. Hats will be distributed in December. Forms may be submitted by texting a photo to 419-707-4051, emailing a photo to Park District Administrative Specialist Sara Hill at, or at the Park District of Ottawa County Office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. One entry per person.
        A series of Guided Walks, led by partnering agencies, are also scheduled and may be recorded on the Hiking Log Sheet. Guided Walks include:
        • Sept. 10, 1-2 p.m., Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Fox Unit. Meet at the Fox Unit across Route 2 from the Visitor Center (access the Fox Unit off of N. Lickert-Harder Road) for a guided, approximately one-mile hike on the storybook and prairie trails. This hike will be geared towards kids exploring the outdoors.
        • Sept. 16, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Lakeside Daisy Glacial Grooves Hike, Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve, Marblehead. Enjoy a guided hike of the restricted-access area of the preserve. ODNR Division of Natural Areas staff will lead visitors to some of the most extensive glacial grooves and best preserved alvar habitat in northern Ohio.
        • Sept. 17, 1-2 p.m., Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Main Unit. Meet at the Visitor Center for a guided, approximately 1.5-mile hike on the boardwalk and through the South Woods trails to look for birds and other wildlife. Binoculars can be checked out at the Visitor Center at no cost.
        • Sept. 27, 9-10 a.m., Toussaint Creek Wildlife Area, 11087 W. Toussaint-Portage Road, Oak Harbor. Wildlife Communication Specialist Kelly Schott, of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, will lead a walk along the dikes around wildlife area, talking about the importance of wetland restoration and management, wetland flora and fauna, and the history of the area.
        • Oct. 4, 10-11 a.m., Great Egret Marsh Nature Preserve, Marblehead. Join the Ottawa County Health Department on a scenic walk along the preserve. This trail, a part of the West Harbor Basin, winds along a narrow pool of Lake Erie backwater that geologists believe was once the channel of the Portage River. Learn about mindfulness practices for mental health as well as the many ways walking and time outdoors lead to healthier lives. This park was created in 2013 with help from the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, and the 150 acres here call many waterfowl, including the Great Egret, home.
        • Nov. 8, 9-10 a.m., Depot Park, Elmore, on the North Coast Inland Trail. Park District of Ottawa County Executive Director Jannah Wilson will lead a guided walk on the North Coast Inland Trail.
        “Fall is a wonderful time to get out and explore our local parks and trails,” Wilson said. “We are excited to offer the Outdoor Hiking Challenge as a way to spend time outdoors, exercise and check out new hiking destinations. If you are up for the challenge, we’ll get started on Sept. 1.”
        Michelle Veliz, health educator/public information specialist for the Ottawa County Health Department, says she appreciates the opportunity to showcase the region’s natural beauty and further connect with residents and area agencies.
        “The Ottawa County Health Department is eagerly awaiting the start of the Outdoor Hiking Challenge,” Veliz said. “In Ottawa County, we are fortunate to enhance our physical and mental health by participating in this challenge in remarkably beautiful settings. We are honored to partner with the Park District of Ottawa County to help residents appreciate all the outdoor trails that our area offers.”
        Learn more about the Outdoor Hiking Challenge by visiting
        For questions, reach the park office at 419-707-4051 or email Like the Park District of Ottawa County on Facebook for further challenge updates and news.


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