6 local hikers spend week on a MetroParks Trek

One week, 125 miles, through more than 20 communities — it was more than a walk in the park; it was a trek to the parks.

Several local outdoor adventurers spent last week on a MetroParks Trek, hiking to all 18 MetroParks in an effort to highlight the parks’ proximity to the many Miami Valley communities.

The MetroParks Trek was also designed to raise awareness of Issue 6 — a replacement of the MetroParks’ existing 1.8-mill levy plus an increase of 0.2 mills. Based on projections from the county auditor, Issue 6 would generate about $18.1 million annually for the MetroParks. The current local levy, which expires in 2019, accounts for approximately 80 percent of the MetroParks’ annual revenue.

Amy Anslinger, Brent Anslinger, Greg Behrens, Yvonne Entingh, Mike Fanelli,and Jordan Hart are just a few of the more than 3.6 million people who visit the MetroParks annually. The members of the trek team shared why the MetroParks are important to them.

Amy and Brent Anslinger (Miami Twp.): Outdoor adventure has always been a part of the couple's life. They even spent their honeymoon hiking 2,600 miles — from Mexico to Canada — on the Pacific Crest Trail. The couple has two daughters, 8 and 10 years old, who have already explored 30 National Parks.

Amy — who has backpacked and paddled extensively throughout the United States — served as the assistant director of outdoor recreation at Wright State University for more than a decade and is now the wellness coordinator at Creative World of Montessori.

Brent’s love of the outdoors got its start when he was a scout. He went on to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail – from Georgia to Maine – while he was still in college. He has been part of the Five Rivers MetroParks staff for 13 years as the outdoor recreation program manager and, along with Jordan Hart, took vacation time to be part of the trek.

“Having safe and clean MetroParks brings tremendous value to our communities,” Amy said. “And, as parents, we understand nature deficit disorder and the importance of getting away from devices. We want these parks for our girls to enjoy.”

“From my own preschool field trips to, now, taking my girls to the parks, the MetroParks have always been a part of my life,” Brent said. “And there is always something new that we can grow into as a family.”

Greg Behrens (Union): The longtime educator — who spent 25 years in the classroom and another decade in administration — recently turned his dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail into a dream-come-true as he completed the 171-day, 2,190.9-mile hike on Sept. 1. He credits the MetroParks with helping him reach his goal through providing programs, as well as places to train.

“Only about one in four people who attempt to hike the AT are successful and I was one of them, thanks to the preparation I received,” Behrens said. “Some people don’t realize what we have here, so close by — all of the programs and resources.”

Yvonne Entingh (Bellbrook): The grandmother of four stopped counting her miles after 7,000 — that was two years ago. A MetroParks backpacking class was where it all began and Entingh is now educating and inspiring other adventure seekers as the owner and lead guide of A Time To Keep LLC, a backpacking and hiking company. Her motto is "Life is an Adventure, Life is a Journey and Life is Passion."

“The MetroParks were a big part of me getting started in backpacking,” Entingh said. “They have outstanding programs and amazing parks.

Mike Fanelli (Centerville): At 70 years old, Fanelli shows no signs of slowing down. Since his retirement in 2001, he has hiked the Appalachian Trail, become an Ohio certified volunteer naturalist and a master recycler. In 2019, he backpacked around the world with his daughter, visiting 34 countries.

“There is just something magical for me about nature,” Fanelli said. “I just love the MetroParks, they are an amazing asset. I wanted people to see how lucky we are.”

Jordan Hart (Troy): From scout to troop leader, life has come full circle for Hart, a MetroParks outdoor recreation program specialist. Along the way, Hart has logged thousands of miles on his bike — including an 855-mile West Coast trip in 2015 and a 2,007-mile trip in 2016 following the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route.

“No matter where you are in the area, you are probably only 15 minutes away from one of the MetroParks,” Hart said. “I take all my scout troops to the MetroParks and, knowing how important the parks are to them, made me want to do this.”

Five Rivers MetroParks by the Numbers

(2016 facts and figures)

3.6 million: Visitors, a 9 percent increase from 2015

368,539: Participants at 128 special events

16,112: Acres of protected land

1,986: Shelter and camping permits

160: Miles of managed trails, for hiking biking, mountain biking and horseback riding

25: Facilities, including 18 parks, the 2nd Street Market and portions of six paved recreation trails

MetroParks Educational Features

• Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture

• Inventors Walk

• Butterfly House

• Tree Tower

• Historical Farm

• Twin Valley Welcome Center

• Possum Creek Farm

• Children’s Discovery Garden

• Zorninger Education Campus

MetroParks Outdoor Recreation Features

• MoMBA, MetroParks Mountain Biking Area

• Carriage Hill Riding Center (equestrian center)

• Twin Valley Trail

• Blue Heron Disc Golf Course

• Mad River Run

• RiverScape River Run

About the Author