During the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks' annual Winter Hikes series, visitors might see a little more "green" than usual at this time of year.

That was the case Jan. 12 at Prairie Oaks Metro Park near West Jefferson, where Metro Parks staff members and volunteers were encouraging hikers on the 1-, 3- or 5-mile trails to make eco-friendly and sustainable choices.

"One of the big things that we're trying to do this year because we're trying to add so many more visitors is to encourage a 'green' initiative," naturalist Jill Snyder said. "We're encouraging people to carpool (and) bring their own cups, bowls and all of those things."

She said even though it's early in the 2020 hike series -- the first Winter Hike was Jan. 4 at Blacklick Woods Metro Park in Reynoldsburg, and it brought more than 2,000 hikers; the second was Jan. 11 at Sharon Woods Metro Park in Westerville -- staff members have used fewer materials for the popular food and refreshments that are served for free at each event. The materials used also are more environmentally friendly, she said.

"It seems to be working," Snyder said. "We partnered with the Compost Exchange (a Columbus-based food-waste recycling company) so all of our bowls, cups and all of those things are compostable. And then at the end of the hike, the Compost Exchange is taking it all and composting everything for us."

Peg Hanley, public-relations director for Metro Parks, said a big focus of the hike series is the soups and other refreshments served.

"The volunteers and the staff take pride in having kind of the best thing that they can have," she said.

Mike Thorn, a 55-year-old Hilliard resident who attended the Jan. 12 hike, said the food and meeting people are reasons he keeps coming back for more hikes.

"It helps you get through the winter," he said.

Ten of the 13 scheduled hikes for this season remain.

The next two scheduled hikes are at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at Scioto Audubon Metro Park, 400 W. Whittier St. in downtown Columbus, and at 10 a.m. Jan. 25 at Clear Creek Metro Park, 185 Clear Creek Road in Rockbridge.

The hikes, which run through Feb. 22, have different mileage options based on the location. For example, Scioto Audubon will have 1- or 2-mile hike options, but Clear Creek will have 1-, 3- or 5-mile courses available.

To learn more about Metro Parks and the Winter Hikes series, go to metroparks.net.

ominnier@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekOlivia

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