Colleen Shupe proudly watched as Diamond, her friendly mule, munched on the contents of a well-earned bag of hay.
Diamond worked up an appetite after escorting Shupe on a miles-long leisurely stroll through Edison Woods MetroPark earlier this month. The pair trekked on Cranberry Creek trail, where they spotted a white crane in a quiet meadow. “It’s nice and quite peaceful,” Shupe said. “You can have a pleasant ride on the horse, and you can always see something.”
Shupe frequently rides on Diamond and Ruby, her Tennessee walking horse, at the Edison Woods MetroPark, as it’s the only public venue in Erie County that allows horseback riding.
The Berlin Heights resident is a member of the Erie County chapter of the Ohio Horseman’s Council.
Since 1991, the nonprofit’s members have helped maintain and develop this Erie MetroParks property, which now boasts more than 20 miles of trails, mostly for horseback. They also work on trails in private areas, as well collaborating with other horseman councils in different counties.
In recent years, the group further enhanced Edison Woods by:
• Working on a two-mile trail leading to Mason Road. Members expect to finish the trail sometime next year.
• Building an on-site shelter, complete with several picnic tables, in 2009. The organization’s members raised $3,000 for the project, and they also built the shelter. The group then donated it to Erie MetroParks.
• Installing horse ties so people can safely leave the animals to eat or rest.
• Organizing a slew of events for horse owners and horseback riding.
One Saturday earlier this month, for instance, several members gathered for a campout with their horses and dogs.
“I enjoy getting out in the woods in a natural setting and enjoy doing it with friends, family and a good horse,” said Milan Township resident Lynn Sparks, a member of the Ohio Horseman’s Erie County chapter. Sparks typically takes with her Farli, a 14-year-old white Arabian horse.
“I enjoy being able to look around and notice the birds,” Sparks said. “I occasionally see a woodpecker, wildflowers and all the different types of trees and insects.”
Members welcome everyone — experienced jockeys, or even novices who have never hopped on a horse — to join the organization.
Some members own horses and bring them to Edison Woods MetroPark so others can ride them. Others members, such as Anne Gilcher, of Sandusky, borrow a horse from other members. “I like the peace and quiet, and I feel better when I’m on a horse,” said Gilcher, who favors Hank, a gated horse.
Gilcher said the group remains committed to improving Edison Woods MetroParks, seeking out additional projects to enhance every rider’s experience.
Every time volunteers donate time and resources to improve public property, it shows dedication, Erie MetroParks commissioner Kurt Landefeld said.
“The club has been a wonderful partner in helping us improve and maintain trails,” Landefeld said. “They’re a great example of the kind of partnerships we encourage with various groups who want to use our parks to promote their particular interests.”
Want to go?
WHAT: Annual poker ride to raise money for the Erie County chapter of the Ohio Horseman’s Council.
WHERE: Edison Woods MetroPark, 8111 Smokey Road, Berlin Heights.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
COST: $10 adults, $5 children. All guests can purchase tickets, which includes lunch. If you want to ride a horse, however, it’s BYOH — Bring Your Own Horse.
MORE: Call 419-681-4854.
Edison Woods MetroPark
WHAT: 1,300-acre preserve, home to wetland habitats and native grasslands. The Erie MetroParks property also has about 500 species of plants, including spring wildflowers and several varieties of fern.
WHERE: 10186 Ceylon Road, Berlin Heights, off Ohio 61. The horse-riding entrance is at 8111 Smokey Road.
HOURS: 7 a.m. to dusk, daily.
AMENITIES: More than 20 miles of naturally surfaced trails used by walkers, hikers and horseback riders. There’s also a half-mile boardwalk. Bicycles and motor vehicles are prohibited.
CALL: 419-625-7783, extension 221