As a person who has enjoyed the running sports for over 50 years, I have seen my share of tracks, sidewalks, roads and trails while logging the miles. Nowhere have I felt as relaxed and at home as running the trails at Preservation Parks of Delaware County.

With an emphasis on conservation, exploration and learning, the parks have a different feel from our township parks, which are mainly athletic fields and playgrounds. Preservation Parks are a rustic piece of Ohio with access trails, nature centers and plenty of parking.

Although there are nine parks, my experience is primarily with Emily Traphagen, Deer Haven and Shale Hollow in the southern part of the county.

When I run, I'm not taking the time to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature as maybe I should be. But this is what else I see:

Friendly people walking alone, with another, or as a family unit. People walking well-mannered dogs on leashes. People taking photos of or just observing everything having to do with nature. People sitting quietly by the pond, maybe thinking or just zoning out. Deer running across my path. Professional photographers taking family and senior pictures. A guy on his knee proposing to his girlfriend. A birthday party or group get-together at a shelter. A small wedding in a quiet, secluded corner.

Yes, at times I have changed my jogging trajectory out of respect for what I see up ahead. But it is all good. I have yet to meet a person at Preservation Parks who I didn't like. And every situation fits in with the purpose of the park.

We need to preserve these oases of nature in the midst of ever-expanding human impact, for our physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Richard Barthelmes