Metroparks offer needed oasis

LIMA — While there are few positives to be gleaned from the coronavirus pandemic that engulfed the United States in 2020, Tyler Black may have found one silver lining. During that year, a record number of people visited the locations that make up the Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District.

According to Black, the park district’s executive director, park use grew when social distancing was the norm during the COVID-19 virus. He said an estimated 1 million people took advantage that year of the miles of hiking and biking trails, swimming and fishing sites and other recreational opportunities offered at the nearly two dozen metropark sites in Allen and Auglaize counties.

“People during the pandemic couldn’t go anywhere but outdoors,” Black said.

So they did. And they seemingly liked it, so much so that use of the parks has continued to boom. Black said an estimated 950,000 people enjoyed the metroparks last year. While down slightly from the 2020 peak, “for a county our size, that’s a lot of resources being used,” Black said.

Sites offer myriad opportunities

Ottawa Metro Park is the crown jewel of the district.

“With a quarter of a million visitors last year, it was our most-used park,” the director said.

There are a wide variety of activities available at the park, located along state Route 81 just east of Lima, ranging from a swimming area with lifeguards, fishing, boating and camping to horseshoe and volleyball courts, playground equipment and a picnic area. Disc golf is also soaring in popularity.

Hermon Woodlands is another popular venue, the director said, with its heated, enclosed shelter houses that are reserved almost every weekend of the year. Heritage Park in Shawnee Township also attracts large crowds regularly, according to statistics gathered by park officials.

“Since the mid-2000s it seems that more people are rallying for green spaces and environmental programming, both here and statewide,” Black said. “I don’t think there’s any one reason for that in particular, but perhaps it’s due to advancements in playground equipment and in technology in general. From what we’ve seen, people enjoy that we’re utilizing technology and making more information available to them.

“Take QR codes, for example. The arboretum at Ottawa Metro Park has QR codes that allow visitors to learn about different types of trees by using their smartphones. The younger generation seems to like that.”

Public support for parks came slowly

The park district’s annual operating budget of approximately $3.3 million is funded in large part through levies supported by taxpayers. Just last year voters approved two renewal levies — one for eight years and another for 10 years — by a 77% majority vote.

Such public support wasn’t always the case, however. Following the formation of the park district in 1972, when a 20-acre tract that would become McLean Teddy Bear Park was established through a long-term lease agreement with Allen County commissioners, the first several attempts to gain voter approval for a tax levy to support the metro park were greeted by failure.

Finally, in June of 1983, a one-third mill levy was approved. From that point forward, the park district continued to grow as properties and facilities were added regularly. Today the park district includes nearly 1,600 acres and features a staff of 21 full-time employees, including four park rangers and three naturalists.

The district’s newest endeavor will be made possible by a $2 million grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ H2O Ohio program. The project focuses on water quality initiatives and will allow the district to restore 50 acres of wetlands and plant 25,000 trees on acreage east of the Auglaize River and north of state Route 81.

With spring just around the corner, Black’s message to the public is a simple one: “Get out and use the parks. They’re yours. And they’re only open every single day.”


Many businesses and organizations started right here in the Lima region, with the goal of making an impact in the region. This year’s Celebrating Our Spirit looks at those trailblazers. Read more stories at


• Allen County Farm Park

1582 Slabtown Road, Lima

Reservable enclosed facility; playground equipment; horseshoe court; volleyball court; horse bridal trail; grills and picnic area; electricity; restroom; water.

• Agerter Road River Access

10410 Agerter Road in Amanda Township, 3 miles west of Bresler Reservoir.

Fishing; boating; grills and picnic area.

• Deep Cut Historial Park

22900 SR 66, 1 mile south of Spencerville.

Hiking; biking; grills and picnic area and water

• Fort Amanda State Memorial

22800 state Route 198 in Auglaize County, southwest of Lima and one-quarter mile south of Ft. Amanda Road.

Reservable shelter house; hiking trail; grills and picnic area; electricity; restroom and water.

• Haver Ridge Metro Park

8335 Bellefontaine Road, Harrod.

Wildlife habitat, restored prairie habitat and interpretive nature-based signage.

• Heritage Park

In Shawnee Township on Reed Road, between Shawnee Road and South Dixie Highway.

Reservable shelter house; hiking trail; biking; fishing; swimming; playground equipment; horseshoe and volleyball courts; grills and picnic area; electricity; restroom and water.

• Hermon Woodlands Metro Park

485 N. Wapak Road in American Township, one-half mile south of state Route 81 in Lima.

Reservable enclosed facility; hiking trail; playground naturescape; grills and picnic area; electricity; restroom and water.

• Kendrick Woods

Main park located at 971 N. Defiance Trail, Spencerville. Archery range located at 1376 N. St. Marys Road, Spencerville. Cottonwood Trail Access located at 10659 Zion Church Road, Spencerville.

Reservable shelter house; hiking trail; fishing; playground equipment; horseshoe and volleyball courts; archery range; grills and picnic area; electricity; restroom and water.

• Lauer Historical Farm

800 Roush Road, Lima

Reservable facilities; historic home; celebration garden venue; wedding pergola; water and restrooms; connected to Ottawa Metro Park and Ottawa River Bikeway.

• Lippincott Bird Sanctuary

3093 Bellefontaine Road, Lima

Hiking trails; wetlands.

• McLean Teddy Bear Park

2004 N. Dixie Highway, Lima

Reservable shelter house; hiking trail; fishing; playground equipment; horseshoe and volleyball courts; grills and picnic area; electricity; restroom and water.

• Miami and Erie Canal Towpath Trail

Several access points between Spencerville and Delphos

Hiking; biking; bird watching; wildlife.

• Motter Metro Park

10740 Columbus Grove-Bluffton Road

Hiking trail; wetlands.

• Ottawa Metro Park

2632 Ada Road, Lima

Reservable shelter house; hiking trail; biking; fishing; swimming; camping; boating; playground equipment; horseshoe and volleyball courts; Frisbee golf; grills and picnic area; electricity; restroom and water.

• Robert K. Antibus trail access

12395 Zion Church Road, Spencerville

Main access to Miami and Erie Canal Towpath

• Rotary Riverwalk/Ottawa River Bikeway

Runs from Heritage Park to Collett Street recreation area in Lima.

Hiking and biking trails

• Veterans Freedom Flag Monument

1191 Buckeye Road, Lima.