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20 reasons to love Dayton’s MetroParks

Perhaps the best way to experience nature’s beauty and appreciate our natural resources in the Dayton area is through our robust networks of parks. 

Beyond the recreation and connection with nature, they’re also key to some of the region’s top investments in conservation, reforestation and preserving and protecting wildlife -- and they all boast unique features.

Here’s our guide to Dayton’s beautiful MetroParks. 

>> Do you think you can you master this Dayton hiking challenge?

Aullwood Garden MetroPark  

Location: 955 Aullwood Road, Englewood 

Why visit: Perfect for history buffs, here you’ll find a burr oak tree with a 1913 flood watermark, and a twin sycamore aged when Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. 

Carriage Hill MetroPark 

Location: 7800 E. Shull Road, Dayton 

Why visit: If you love fishing and trails, add this park to your must-visit list. Oh, and if you want a taste of Dayton’s past -- visit their blacksmith shop, woodshop, historic house and bank barn where you’ll find historic breeds of farm animals.

>> This local library considers adding outdoor dining to its menu of offerings

Cox Arboretum MetroPark 

Location: 6733 Springboro Pike, Dayton 

Why visit: With over a dozen specialty gardens, including a Butterfly House with native butterflies and moths, this MetroPark has so much to explore. There are also 2.5 miles of trails and a Tree Tower that rises 46 feet high for an incredible view. 

Deeds Point MetroPark  

Location: 510 Webster St., Dayton 

Why visit: Calling all bird watchers, this park has a variety of migratory and resident birds can be seen here, including bald eagles. The park has a bronze statue of Wilbur and Orville Wright as a fixture along the trail, and an aviation timeline exhibit. The park also has a monument — Dayton Peace Accord — that symbolizes the agreement for peace between Bosnia and Herzegovina struck in Dayton on Nov. 21, 1995. 

>> This Dayton MetroPark is about to get BIGGER -- here’s the expansion details

Eastwood MetroPark 

Location: 1385 Harshman Road, Dayton 

Why visit: Are water sports your call to the wild? Here you can boat, paddle, kayak, canoe and fish. There are also numerous scenic trails that connect to many others in the area. 

Englewood MetroPark  

Location: 4361 National Road, Vandalia 

Why visit: This park blends scenic and sporty. Forest areas, wetlands and woodlands, grasslands, rivers and 12 miles of trails are all within reach. Follow a boardwalk into this wet area that supports an unusual population of trees including black ash, swamp white oak and pumpkin ash. This wetland has been dedicated as a State Natural Landmark in recognition of the occurrence of pumpkin ash, a tree rarely found in Ohio.

 >> Meet the woman who has kept our MetroParks beautiful for over 15 years

Germantown MetroPark  

Location: 7101 Conservancy Road, Germantown 

Why visit: Looking to camp among rare species of plants and animals? The park’s 22 miles of camping-friendly trails are for you. Don’t miss the “Window on Wildlife” with benches where visitors can sit, watch and listen to native birds through microphone-equipped windows.

Hills & Dales MetroPark 

Location: 2655 S. Patterson Blvd., Kettering 

Why visit: Great for hiking beginners and families, this walkable park features hills and ravines covered in mature and young hardwood forest, spring seeps and associated small wetlands. Don’t miss the “Staged Gates” landscape sculpture. 

>> PHOTOS: How Five River MetroParks keeps it GREEN

Huffman MetroPark 

Location: 4439 Lower Valley Pike, Dayton 

Why visit: Looking for a new spot to walk or hike? This 110-acre grassland is one of the largest prairie remnants in Ohio, which is maintained and restored in partner with Wright Patterson AFB. There are various trails and paths to explore, most of which connect to others in the area.

Island MetroPark 

Location: 101 E. Helena St., Dayton 

Why visit: This park offers a unique opportunity to explore nature, bird watch and walk trails. There is also a playground area, interactive waterplay system during summer and a bandshell for live music. 

Possum Creek MetroPark  

Location: 4790 Frytown Road, Dayton 

Why visit: This is one of the largest and most diverse planted prairies in Ohio. In striving to become a leader in sustainable innovation, here you can help grow a garden in the approximately 100 community garden plots. Walking and hiking trails are plentiful, and fishing and ice fishing are also available.

>> Your guide to making the most out of a RiverScape River Run visit

RiverScape MetroPark 

Location: 111 E. Monument Ave., Dayton 

Why visit: Diverse in both recreation and wildlife, this spot is a must-visit to experience fun and exploration in nature. Free summer weekend concerts, parent and preschooler programs, major community festivals and an ice skating rink. The Dayton Inventor’s River Walk includes seven invention stations along Monument Avenue and Patterson Boulevard that celebrate Dayton inventions. Bike and kayak rentals available. Daytonian Paul Laurence Dunbar’s famous poems are etched in stone at the top of the staircase at the west end of the park. 

Sugarcreek MetroPark 

Location: 4178 Conference Road, Bellbrook 

Why visit: Here you’ll find 550-year old white oaks, a planted prairie, scenic bird walks, meadows, and Sugar Creek. Be sure to snap a few photos in the “living tunnel” created by the large arching branches of Osage Orange trees, which date back to the 1800s. 

 >> MetroParks has made planning your hike WAY easier, here’s how

Sunrise MetroPark 

Location: 50 Edwin C. Moses Blvd., Dayton 

Why visit: Get active in nature! Located at the juncture of Wolf Creek and the Great Miami River in Dayton, this small park is an excellent place to watch wildlife, walk trails, skate, run, bike ride and fish.

Taylorsville MetroPark 

Location: 2000 State Route 40, Vandalia 

Why visit: This park has unique history and typography. Wooded ravines, massive rock outcroppings, historic ruins and the Great Miami River make this large 1,300-acre park a must-visit. There are also approximately 13 miles of scenic trails. Available activities include fishing, kayaking, canoeing, sledding, cross-country skiing. 

>> GUIDE: How to camp in Dayton’s MetroParks

Twin Creek MetroPark 

Location: 9688 Eby Road, Germantown 

Why visit: Don’t miss the winding prehistoric Indian mound and scenic hilltop vista. The park has over 20 miles of camping-friendly wooded trails, including seven miles of equestrian trails. Fish, backpack, hike and explore waterways. 

Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark 

Location: 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton 

Why visit: This one you’ll want to the kiddos to. The Children’s Discovery Garden inspires little ones to play and explore texture, creatures, sounds and more. The beautifully planted Forman gardens, community gardens and boardwalk-navigation wetlands make for a great spot to see native birds and wildlife. 

>> 10 Dayton camping getaways that scream heaven on earth

Wesleyan MetroPark 

Location: 1441 Wesleyan Road, Dayton 

Why visit: This 55-acre park features numerous scenic spots, making it a great choice for your next family photo session. The park is the home of Adventure Central, an innovative partnership between MetroParks and Ohio State University Extension, 4-H Youth Devel­opment. Here, urban youth learn about the environment and develop life skills through after-school programs, clubs and camps. There is also a playground and fishing available. 

Caesar Creek State Park 

Location: 8570 E. SR 73, Waynesville 

Why visit: Known as one of the state’s premier outdoor recreation destinations, this 7,900-acre park offers more than 40 miles of hiking trails (ranging from mild to extremely rugged) that provide beautiful and striking views of the lake and the surrounding area. There are also opportunities for boating and camping. 

 >> Dayton gets ‘wild’ props from National Geographic

John Bryan State Park 

Location: 3790 State Route 370, Yellow Springs 

Why visit: John Bryan State Park is perhaps the most scenic State Park in western Ohio. Long ago, the limestone gorge, a portion of which is a national landmark, was cut by the Little Miami River (a state and national scenic river). On your hike along the 10-mile trail, you can see more than 100 different species of trees and shrubs, 340 species of wild flowers, 90 different varieties of birds, white-tail deer, beaver, coyotes, gray squirrels, fox squirrels -- and even an occasional white squirrel. 

Charleston Falls 

Location: 2535 Ross Road, Tipp City 

Why visit: Discover uncommon plants and a unique waterfall originating from small underground springs. The 216-acre park features an observation boardwalk near the falls, a limestone cave, wildlife pond, tall grass prairie and nearly 4 miles of trails.

>> Where to paddle in Dayton, and what to know before you go

What do you love most about Dayton’s Metro Parks? Drop me a line at alex.perry@coxinc.com.

Former Blue Jacket theater set for demolition in Greene County

It’s been 10 years since the Blue Jacket theater group performed at Caesar’s Ford Park, and now the dilapidated buildings are slated to be torn down.

A padlock on the front gates keeps the public out of the park at 520 S. Stringtown Road. The structures, which were built in the 1970s, have not been maintained and now pose safety hazards, Greene County officials said.

STAY CONNECTED: Greene County News on Facebook

“It’s a sad end of an era, but the future is bright,” said Brandon Huddleson, Greene County administrator.

Rezod LLC has been awarded the $308,851 contract to demolish the buildings and clear the way for reopening the 65-acre park and exploring new recreational options for residents.

To pay for the three-month project, county commissioners approved spending $208,000 out of the general and capital funds, and the park district is providing $100,000. County officials have not said when the demolition work will begin.

MORE: Grants available for business expansion, investment in Greene County

Memories of the Blue Jacket theater

Many people, like Kevin Carsey of Beavercreek, earned lifelong memories working at the amphitheater and seeing the life of Blue Jacket, a famous American Indian who lived in the Greene County region, portrayed in the open air.

“It is a sacred land,” said the 39-year-old father of two. Carsey got chills as he recalled walking the trail toward the back of the property and being near the area that was dubbed “the medicine wheel.”

“At the end of the show, the actors would say ‘look around you at the forest and listen to the streams nearby’ … The spiritual piece of that is just huge for those of us who worked at the theater,” he said.

MORE: Runway extension could bring more corporate jets to Greene County

Carsey and others want an opportunity to visit the park and the buildings before they are torn down. Carsey said there was always a ceremony at the beginning of the shows to show respect for the Americans Indians who once lived in the region. He hopes the county allows a similar ceremony before the demolition work begins.

Elizabeth Gutierrez Burke, 33, of Riverside, started acting in the shows when she was 12. When she wasn’t acting, she would work as an usher, and her siblings also participated in the shows.

“We weren’t just a cast, we were a family that transcended seasons,” Burke said. “That show will always be a part of every cast and crew member to grace that stage.”

‘A beautiful piece of property’

The strong sentimental ties the community has to the park are not lost on Greene County Parks and Trails Director Chrisbell Bednar.

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“A lot of people grew up out there,” Bednar said. “They had their summer job out there. A lot of people have great, fond memories of being part of the show or seeing the show.”

Bednar said the seats that make up the amphitheater will be disassembled and removed before demolition in an effort to preserve them for future use. She said measures will be in place to try to avoid damaging the concrete that forms the seating area, but the iconic light tower, which shined down onto the large outdoor stage, will have to come down.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property,” Bednar said. “We want to make it a multi-use facility for various programs throughout the year. Cycling and equestrian groups have made inquiries, and they need a big facility, but right now we can’t open it to the general public.”

The Xenia-Jamestown Connector Bike Trail passes through a portion of the park, and building new trails to connect to it is part of the ongoing conversation about what to do after the demolition work is over.

Watch: Drunk man climbs Mexican Pavilion pyramid at Disney's Epcot

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A man that guests claim was drunk is getting a lot of attention online after climbing the pyramid at the Mexican Pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World.

>> Read more trending stories

Instagram user @missinth uploaded the video of the man scaling the steep wall during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival this week.

"We saw this tonight. This man is going to ruin EPCOT for everyone," the video description reads.

The daring climber was reportedly drinking with a group of friends wearing matching T-shirts when right before closing time, he decided to perform the stunt. Witnesses say he reached the top then climbed back down and avoided security that was waiting at the bottom for him, reports Click Orlando.

We saw this tonight. This man is going to ruin EPCOT for everyone. I was too busy getting sweet corn cheesecake to take pictures or video. 📷: @robby431 PLEASE CREDIT @robby431 or myself! A video posted by Inthia S (@missinth) on Nov 9, 2015 at 8:44pm PST

Area fighters boxing to benefit vets

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