A green-friendly guide to summer in OhioWritten by Claudia Boyd-Barrett | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If the term “ecotourism” has you conjuring up images of canoe expeditions through the Amazon rainforest and Himalayan yoga retreats, think again.
There are plenty of interesting and ecologically friendly activities to be found here in Ohio, including in the Toledo area.
That’s good news if you’re on a budget or strapped for vacation time. It’s also a welcome relief for the planet, because by staying local this summer, you avoid adding to the huge carbon gas emissions that come from plane travel and long-distance car journeys.
“Travelers are becoming a lot more socially responsible and a lot more environmentally aware,” State Tourism Director Amir Eylon said. “It’s not just about going to the extremes of ecotourism, but just realizing what’s happening in your region.”
That realization can start by a simple trip to one of Toledo’s metroparks, or to the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area on the shores of Lake Erie. Here you can experience one of Ohio’s major, yet less-talked-about attractions: migrating birds. May is the best month to see these birds.
“This time of the year is really special,” said metroparks spokesman Scott Carpenter, who recommends beginning birders take advantage of some of the metroparks’ organized birding activities. “People come from all over the country because of the number and variety of birds you see here.”
Toledo Area Metroparks offer plenty of other eco-themed activities, from guided hikes to educational workshops to canoeing courses. For kids, the parks’ nature summer camps have been expanded this year to include programs for preschoolers and teenagers. Park officials are expecting higher enrollment as more families decide to stay home in this cash-strapped economy, Carpenter said.
For anyone wanting to experience some zero-emissions travel from years gone by, Providence Metropark in Grand Rapids runs mule-drawn canal rides throughout the summer. For just a few dollars, visitors get to enjoy a one-hour ride led by historical interpreters dressed in costumes from the 1870s. Visitors can also take a free tour of a water-powered mill.
“As far as education, we really hit hard the role that Northwest Ohio played in transportation — not just in Toledo but across the nation,” said Beckie Finch, Toledo Metroparks director of historical programs. The canal ride offers “a whole world of education and experience that gives insights into how transportation plays a role in the environment today.”
Cathy Miller, the director of tourism for the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau, offers her own list of green-friendly activities for Toledoans staying home this year. Among her favorites are the Toledo Botanical Gardens; the Toledo Farmers Market; The Butterfly House in WhiteHouse, Ohio; Country Lane Tree Farm in Genoa and the Schedel Arboretum and Gardens near Elmore. She said finding things to do locally is a good way to have fun on a tight budget.
“There are a lot of things that are free of charge in Toledo, and if it’s not free of charge, it’s just a nominal fee,” Miller said. For people staying in the area this summer, she recommends “just enjoying the natural resources you have around you and the pride of our community. The attractions we have here are just beautiful.”
Of course, those seeking eco-friendly fun slightly farther afield can still find plenty to do without leaving Ohio. Eylon recommended exploring the many state parks, visiting the wildlife habitats around Lake Erie and stopping at Sandusky’s green-certified “Great Wolf Lodge” waterpark.
Another ecotourism stop is Blue Rock Station in the Columbus area, a green homestead and farm made from recycled materials.
“The neat thing about Ohio is that it doesn’t matter what region of the state you’re in,” Eylon said. “There are great opportunities to engage in green activities no matter where you are.”