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ST. MARYS — Area organizations have partnered to present multiple opportunities for residents to get out of the house and explore nature this season.
"The Lockkeeper's Winter Canal Hike is the first of four hikes," Heritage Trails Park District Director Allison Brady said. "We have one per month for four months."
The Lockkeeper's Winter Canal Hike will be Sunday, Jan. 15, followed by the United Way Hike for Health will be Sunday, Feb. 12, the Canawlers Hike will be Sunday, March 18 and the April Showers Hike will be Sunday, April 15.
"They all qualify for the "Road to Fitness" points, which is done through the Grand Lake Health System," Brady said. "And they all take a route along the Miami and Erie Canal towpath trail."
The first hike — the Lockkeeper's Winter Canal Hike — is sponsored by the Miami and Erie Canal Corridor Association.
"Registration for the Lockkeeper's Winter Canal Hike will be at the Lockkeeper's House in New Bremen anytime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Jan. 15," Brady said. "They can hike in a number of directions."
For each hike, participants can earn 70 points for a 5K through the "Road to Fitness" program, and even points for a 10K.
"The idea is getting people outdoors in the winter and having some fellowship," Brady said.
For each hike, participants can choose how far they want to walk, and routes should be marked, and registration will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
"We encourage people to take a day, and even if it's snowing, come out," Brady said. "Just come out and dress for the weather."
Each hike has a designated registration area, where there will be restrooms and refreshments for participants.
"Three out of the four hikes are on the third Sunday of the month," Brady added. "Our goal was they would all be on the same day of the month."
The February hike, she noted, featured a new sponsor this year.
"The United Way is our new sponsor taking on that event," Brady said of the Feb. 12 United Way Hike for Health. "That one is in St. Marys. Registration will be in the Canal Room below the utility office, and they can hike north. We'll have it marked."
For the last two hikes — the Canawlers Hike on March 18 and the April Showers Hike on April 15 — Heritage Trails Park District is the sponsor.
"Those hikes start at the Noble Township Hall, which is north of St. Marys on Brewer Road," Brady said. "For the one in March, they hike north toward Lock 14, and for the April one they'll hike south."
The hikes, she added, feature collaboration from multiple area organizations.
"We're working with the United Way, MECCA, Heritage Trails Park District and the Grand Lake Health System, and Dannon is helping with refreshments," Brady said.
The hikes, she added, are "hike on your own" hikes.
"We chose Sunday because there are the least amount of conflicts with sporting events and kids events," Brady said. "Sundays tend to have a little less. Our hope is families would join us and see how far they can hike."
The hikes are at no cost to participants.
"It's free," Brady said. "It's an opportunity to get outside."