The indefinite closure of the gym he goes to was not about to stop Dominic Stanziano on his weight-loss journey.
Determined to avoid gaining back the 44 pounds he lost over the past few months, the Hilliard resident looked for alternative ways to keep active during the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly every public gathering spot has been ordered by Gov. Mike DeWine to close to mitigate contamination, but Stanziano said he knew one outlet still would be available to him on a morning in mid-March.
On March 15, he got into his car and drove to Prairie Oaks Metro Park, 3225 N.E. Plain City-Georgesville Road, West Jefferson, for a solo hike along trails blanketed by snow the day before.
Although scenic treks already are a weekly part of his fitness routine, he said, he plans to increase his visits now -- not only to stay active but also to reconnect with nature during a time of unease and social isolation.
"You go out, and you're able to see that the world is continuing and there are places beyond these walls. There are birds singing and fish in the water," Stanziano said. "It reconnects you to the earth."
As Stanziano discovered, central Ohioans need not succumb to cabin fever while social distancing.
Prairie Oaks, just like the other Metro Parks and trails, has remained open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Although programs have been postponed and nature centers have been closed, each park is equipped with public restrooms.
Similarly, Preservation Parks in Delaware County has kept its nine locations open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., although its restrooms and public facilities have been closed.
The ample scenic nature parks in Franklin and Delaware counties might provide visitors with the dose of serenity needed to keep coronavirus-related anxieties at bay. But they are hardly the only salve available to central Ohioans.
Residents also have been taking part in phone-app-based scavengers hunts, enjoying tasty fare from nearby food trucks or heading to one of the many local parks.
"Being able to experience something other than home life or the neighborhood is important," said Tom Curtin, executive director of Preservation Parks. "It provides a change of scenery, and, of course, the exercise is great."
Without sporting events and public festivals to attract business, many food truck companies have branched out into the community to woo patrons.
"Food trucks are still an accessible option for carryout food," said Zach James, president of the Central Ohio Food Truck Association. "We are kind of fully immersed in a Neighborhood Pickup program."
Trucks are encouraging customers to order ahead online. Customers also could pay in advance so that no cash is handled at pickup time, he said.
The new program is serving Columbus neighborhoods, such as Clintonville, Franklinton and the University District.
"Just getting to get out of your house and take a walk, grab some food if we're in your neighborhood, I think it's a great option for people," said David Pashovich, creative director of Pitabilities, which serves Greek Mediterranean fare.
After their bellies are full, residents can set out to find public art to appreciate throughout the city with the assistance of a database maintained by columbusmakesart.com.
Or they can make a game of discovering local landmarks using Let's Roam, a phone app with scavenger hunts in 400 U.S. cities, including Columbus.
Just like its suburban counterparts, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department offers plenty of public places for healthy residents to safely enjoy much-needed outdoors time.
Although its indoor facilities and playgrounds are closed at least through April 6, and its programs are indefinitely postponed, 400 parks and 220 miles of regional trails are available to the public, said Sophia Fifner, community-relations chief for recreation and parks.
"There are lots of options for people to get some fresh air and focus on their physical well-being," Fifner said. "During this public-health emergency, connecting folks is incredibly important to us."
The Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks locations have seen an uptick in weekday attendance since most central Ohioans began working remotely and children have been home from school, executive director Tim Moloney said.
"The bread and butter of our organization always has been and always will be people getting outside and exploring nature on their own," Moloney said. "As long as the weather is nice, we're seeing people getting out and enjoying their parks."
From as far north as Highbanks in the Lewis Center area to as far south as Clear Creek in Rockbridge, the Metro Parks abound with scenic views, active wildlife and hidden gems.
Visitors might spot nesting eagles from the overlook trail at Highbanks or view the blooming daffodils at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville. Prairie Oaks offers chances to fish or take a pooch to the doggy beach.
And Pickerington Ponds in Canal Winchester offers a spectacular view of both the sunrise and sunset, said Metro Parks spokeswoman Peg Hanley.
"Each day, something new is gonna pop up, or you're gonna hear a new sound," Hanley said. "It's a great way to distance yourself from the chaos."
Aryeh Alex particularly enjoys sightings of the bison herd at Battelle Darby Creek near his Galloway home, where he has been hiking daily since the coronavirus outbreak reached the area.
"When I'm home all day, it's a good opportunity to get outside and see a change of scenery and be out in nature, said Alex, 35, a Franklin Township trustee and the executive director of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus. "It sets the day in a good place."
Walnut Woods Metro Park in Groveport also is home to one of his favorite natural attractions: the Tall Pines area.
"It's this pretty cool magical place where you're surrounded by tall pine trees," Alex said.
The area, which has rows of 40-year-old pines stretching 30 to 50 feet toward the sky, is one of the Metro Parks' most-photographed spots, Moloney said.
It is a spot that Blacklick resident Brian Loeffler has visited and photographed for its splendor. The 40-year-old said he hikes in various parks two or three times a week, a hobby that has become even more integral to his physical and mental well-being of late.
"I think getting out to an open area where you can have a sense of normalcy, get away from the hustle and bustle of things and enjoy the world around us; it gets some of that energy out from being cooped up at home," Loeffler said. "You see the natural world for what it is, and I think it's very calming, I think it's very grounding."