Northeast Ohio isn’t generally known for a booming night scene or glamourous skyline, however it does excel in one major area: small to medium sized Metroparks. With about as many parks as cornfields, the area is littered with both small pockets of parklands and significant attractions. With many options in such a close proximity one question often arises among local hikers, stroller bearing mothers, and elderly powerwalkers, “Which park is the best?”
Having grown up around these parks myself and proactively visiting each one before writing this article, I have managed to construct an ordered list, weighing both the pros and cons, of the majority of the parks within the general vicinity of Chagrin Falls.
Below is my full list of parks, ranked using a tri-variate system in which I assessed each park’s current infrastructure, usefulness, and attractiveness, and then averaged the three numbers to determine the final score for each park.
Lewis and Ruth Affelder House
Russell Uplands Preserve
Sulphur Springs ranks highest on my list because it exceeds what is expected in all aspects of my ranking system. For the sake of keeping my rankings condensed and easy to follow, I considered Henry Church Rock Picnic Area, Quarry Rock Picnic Area, Sulfur Springs Picnic Area, and Shelter House Picnic Area, as well as the paths connecting them and the surrounding trails all one entity under “Sulfur Springs”. With that clarified, Sulfur Springs ranked first on my list because it has numerous areas to gather, including pavilions, picnic tables, and other outdoor spaces, as well as a paved path lined with designated spots to work out along the way. The park’s location along the river allows easy access for fishing, the paved paths allow for easier running, and the sledding hill gives children a fun winter time activity. “I remember having so much fun sledding there when I was younger”, said freshman Reed Livingston. “The hill is really nice and it makes the park a lot better.”
The many streams scattered across the park as well as the Chagrin River flowing through it accentuate a variety of foliage and tree cover to create a very attractive ambiance, especially during summer months. The park isn’t perfect however, and it is drawn back slightly by the large change in elevation and lack of enclosed seating.
The West Woods managed to pull a commendable second place finish on my list, and I spent quite a bit of time deciding between this park and Sulfur Springs for the number one spot. The West Woods secured its spot at number two because of its engaging learning center, relative expanse of paved paths, and numerous places to gather. It also rose so high due to its perfect length, fully looping, wooded trails that traverse a diverse array of nature. In turn it is very useful to avid runners, mothers with children, and every day hikers. This park is held back however by it’s far proximity from any significant water, and it’s relatively small size compared to Sulfur Springs. Overall the West Woods is a very solid park and should be heavily considered for every hiker’s next excursion.
Although a relatively small park compared to its competitors in the top 3, Frohring Meadows manages to hold its own. With an enclosed gathering area (something neither of the other top 3 possess), permanent bathrooms, and a paved, looping, trail, the infrastructure at Frohring Meadows matches that of the top contenders. It also has an expanse of trails through the meadow that dip into the woods and are more than enough to satisfy a daily hiking crave. Similar to the West Woods, Frohring Meadows lacks access to a body of water and is not the most aesthetically pleasing, however it is still a solid option for a hard run, quick jog, or just a leisurely stroll.
Lewis and Ruth Affelder House:
Although not ranked in the top three, the Lewis and Ruth Affelder House is a sleeper of a park and remains unknown by many. Tucked away off of Chillicothe Road this park boasts a rentable building for gatherings, a small pond, a handful of small waterfalls, and medium to large looping trails. It does however, lack paved paths and a true sense of cohesion across the park, landing it lower in the ranks.
The Polo Fields is a good example of a functional park. This park was designed to host horse shows and other equestrian related events, a purpose that it fulfills well. With easy to access stalls, a place to walk horses, and two show rings, the Polo Fields stands in a league of its own for passionate equestrians. “I have been to the Hunter Jumper event a few times over the years and it has always been enjoyable,” recalled senior Julius Lelonis. “I’m not a huge horse fan but even I was able to find ways to have fun.”
Although the park isn’t the most beautiful, it does serve its purpose and also hosts a walking path around the outside, a large open field, and small seating areas giving it a boost to fifth on my list.
With a large enclosed seating area, impressive playground, and small paved path Holbrook Hollows is worth a mention. The trail, although pretty, doesn’t loop and has minimal attractions along the way. The paved path is also quite short landing it at sixth on my list.
Jackson Field has long trails that follow the river making it scenic and a good spot for fishing. However, it doesn’t have a paved path or any current infrastructure making it a pretty one dimensional location. “Jackson Field is one of my favorite trails to run on,” acknowledged Livingston. “I do occasionally wish that it had some paved paths though.”
With an isolated location, small pond, and easy river access, Whitesburg is a solid park however it isn’t the most attractive on this list and it lacks any real purpose. Whitesburg is a good choice for people looking to get a quick walk due to its close proximity to town, however it isn’t much to write home about. Placing whitesburg so low on this list is a bit controversial as some park users disagree with me. “I love Whitesburg.” stated Lelonis. “I feel as though I am one with nature when surrounded by the park. I feel like I can use Whitesburg as an escape from my daily life.”
Russell Uplands Preserve:
With only a small lake and short and monotonous trails, this park ranks last on my list. It has no real infrastructure and serves little purpose. “Compared to the other parks around I don’t think I would ever choose to walk there,” stated sophomore Evan Johnson. “It just doesn’t stack up to the competition.”
It is a relatively good looking park, however there is an eerie feeling during later hours of the day and the paths can get confusing.