Standing at the northeast end of the Meredith State Road Trail, where it touches the Licking County line between Sunbury and Centerburg, I looked out over a farm field.
In my mind, I drew a 1,300-foot line from where I was standing to the woods across the field. In my imagination, that line became paved and filled with bicyclists riding along the Ohio to Erie Trail.
Trails not yet built, paths not yet walked upon. I reflected on those phrases during my latest walk in the park, which really was a walk on a trail. Preservation Parks administers several segments of the Ohio to Erie Trail, a wonderful paved path that, when completed, will stretch from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Some sections are missing, but the trail is nearly 90 percent complete.
One of the gaps is that 1,300-foot stretch through a tiny corner of Licking County, which is the only thing keeping the long, completed trails in Knox and Holmes counties -- and beyond -- from connecting with those in Delaware County. But that little connecting piece is now on the horizon, with Licking County committed and funding being put in place.
We have a few small gaps in Delaware County too, but little by little, those connections are being made as well.
Completing segments of the trail is a long, drawn-out process.
The Ohio to Erie Trail is built atop an old railroad corridor that parallels state Route 3. Over time, that railroad right of way was sold or given to landowners; some have donated their land to the trail and others have sold their easements.
Often, organizations that are building segments of the trail -- including Preservation Parks -- apply for grants to acquire and pave the trails.
All of that takes time and lots of perseverance, making the Ohio to Erie Trail even more amazing. Credit is certainly due the visionaries who came up with the idea nearly three decades ago.
For where would we be without ideas, dreamed up by people who wish to improve the quality of life for future generations? So much of what we do at Preservation Parks is built on a dream for the future, imagined by many people who foresaw prairies and wetland habitat where unused farm fields used to be. Instead of yet another housing development bulldozing through the wildflowers, they saw parks in some of the prettiest areas of Delaware County.
Every time voters in Delaware County said "yes" to the parks, they became part of the cadre of dreamers who saw trees, gurgling creeks, birds and prairie flowers as precious parts of their lives.
I've been part of that dream for 12 years, joining the park district in 2007. Now, trails not yet built and paths not yet walked upon are in my future, since I am retiring at the end of this month.
I've been lucky to be part of an organization built on vision and dreams, one that has opened new parks, added new walking trails and offered hundreds of ways for people to connect to, and love, our natural world.
First in my career as a journalist and then with the parks, I've worked and connected with many people in Delaware County over the past 24 years, and I am grateful to have known them all.
I don't know where all my new paths will lead, but I am sure a few of them will circle back to Preservation Parks. Hopefully, on some future trail, I'll run into some of those people, my friends, who have made my work here a real joy.
Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County. This is her final Walk in the Park column for ThisWeek Community News.