Tuesday, July 24, 2012

PICNICKING IN THE PARKS

Although it’s not the same as BP (Before Parents), this Old Biddy still manages to get out and about on the town from time to time.  Writing about it comes a little later due to other responsibilities, so under the premise of “better late than never”, I will try to point out some places that are well worth being on anyone’s map of local places to visit.

As the warmer weather has finally agreed to stay with us for a while, I’ve instituted “picnic Sundays” into our family weekly routine.  Sunday morning, I gather up something for lunch and some drinks and we grab the dog and head out to a local metro park for lunch. 
Picnic at the Firestone Metro Park
Northeast Ohio is blessed with a multitude of beautiful parks, walking trails, lakes and picnic areas.  Here in Akron, we are a short drive from the lovely Cuyahoga Valley National Park that covers over 33,000 acres stretching from the northern part of Summit County and into Cuyahoga County.  Closer to home Summit County Metro Parks has a dozen or so parks that can put us back in touch with nature while still being close to the city. 

A couple weeks ago we spent a lovely Sunday at the FirestoneMetro Park off of Warner Road.  Picnic tables are situated very near the parking area and there are restrooms nearby which makes this perfect for us.  From our table we could see the beautiful Firestone Country Club Golf Course to our south and a nice grassland area adjacent to the picnic area.  Conversation revolved around which tree looked tallest or where the airplanes might be headed that left contrails in the blue skies above. 

Cars came and went with people of all shapes, sizes and ages coming and going from the hiking trail, most with a friendly wave or stopping by to see Susie (the dog).  After our lunch, we took a short hike over the bridge to the Tuscarawas Meadows picnic area and looked over the lovely pavilion there with its huge fireplace.  Check out the park’s events page for a listing of concerts and events at this location.   One other plus for this park are the multiple entrances and picnic areas.  Although we might visit the same park week after week, the areas are different enough to offer a totally new experience each time.
Mom and Dad at the Mustill Store
One Sunday we headed back into downtown Akron to the Mustill Store and the Cascade Lock Park.  The store and adjacent house just north of the parking lot and adjacent to Lock 15 are some of the oldest structures in Akron. Built between 1825 and 1850, the store served the local community and the people traveling the canal. The area was designated as National Historic District in 1992 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Picnic tables are located in the back area of the store yard and are (again) near to the restrooms.  The store is open most days with friendly volunteers to welcome you and a nice cool bowl of water for the dogs that walk the towpath running directly in front of the store and along the canal.
Me blowing out birthday candles at
my birthday picnic in 1964
DO PEOPLE REALLY PICNIC ANY MORE?
This Old Biddy is noticing that picnicking seems to be a lost family tradition.  Although I’ve always loved going on picnics – especially as a child – they can be a lot of work if you make them difficult.  Lugging around coolers and ice and food (both hot and cold), building a fire if you need to use the grill, setting a table, fighting off the bugs and the endless cleanup that comes after are all good reasons why most folks don’t seem to picnic anymore.
Here's me at the edge of Monroe Falls
Park back in 1963. Cute, wasn't I?
Looking through my family photos I find pictures of Dad and his family on picnics when he was a very young man and he tells stories of going as far as Pymatuning Lake on the Ohio/PA border.    When I was small we went picnicking often, especially on holidays.  Although by that time we had a small travel trailer parked down in Clinton (which in those days was WAY far from home) and most picnicking was done there.  Still, we had our share of picnics at the Monroe Falls private Renner Park where we went swimming and in general had a great time.  (Renner Park was purchased by Summit County Metro Parks in 1978 and is now one of their nicest swimming facilities.)

SO WHY BOTHER WITH ALL THAT WORK NOW? 
Well, I’m glad you asked.  Especially with two dementia-afflicted parents and their yippy dog, creating a nice, calm afternoon at the park can be a challenge.  But with the hopes of getting my folks out of the house to satisfy Mom’s need to be “not home all day”, Dad’s need to be with the dog, the dog’s need to be outside where she can run a little, and my need for some fresh air and sunshine – I’ve created a simple strategy to allow us to pack up, get there, have a nice couple of hours, clean up and get home without much hassle.
Mom and Dad talking a short walk
after lunch at the park.
For as long as they are mobile this is a good way to help burn off energy and they both seem to sleep a little better after a day that includes an outing. It brings back some memories and there is something different to look at with each park we visit (no matter how many times we visit the same place).

For me, it’s a time to get out of the routine we have day in and day out and yet still stick to the meal schedule. After a week of running to keep up after Mom and Dad, doing laundry, cleaning up the kitchen and dining room after every meal, being stuck in the stuffy house trying to get everything done, and spending 40 hours in the fishbowl that is my office, this is just as much relaxation for me as a caregiver as it is for Mom and Dad. Nature is healing and an hour or two of simply sitting and enjoying fresh air has a calming effect on most everyone.

The point is to get out of the house, get out of your neighborhood and get into nature a little bit. Take advantage of the parks that our community has set aside for us and enjoy the out of doors for a couple of hours.  Leave a comment if you like to picnic and tell me where you like to go.  Maybe you'll see us there checking in out some Sunday.



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