Secor Metropark near Toledo, Ohio is one of more than a dozen parks that, along with a handful of affiliated attractions and two trail corridors, comprise the 11,500-acre Metroparks Toledo area system.
We recently visited Secor to see the National Center for Nature Photography at the park, which re-opened on October 5 after a seven-month closure for renovations. Renovations included adding 1,000 square feet to the building, knocking out a couple of interior walls, adding windows to create a 3,000-square-foot gallery and brightening the space with more natural lighting.
The center, established at the park in 2003, seeks to build an appreciation and understanding of the natural world via photography, especially in northwest Ohio and its ecologically diverse Oak Openings region.
Photographers will find a lot of programs, gallery shows, contests, classes, photography tips, photo shoots and other resources to inspire and help them practice and improve their photography at the center and on the center's Web site.
The galleries showcased more than 300 submissions and prize-winning photographs from the annual Photo Arts of Toledo photography contest during our visit. We also saw "Curious Critters: Larger than Life!", a showing of children's book author and photographer David FitzSimmons' engaging animal close-ups and photos of the region's unique plants and animals by center director Art Weber in his "Ohio's Sand Country: We Call it the Oak Openings" exhibit.
Most visitors take a self-guided tour of the galleries, but groups of 10 or more can schedule a guided tour, typically lasting 45 minutes, with an emphasis on their particular photographic interests.
A sign on the center's door welcomed "friendly dogs" accompanied by their "well behaved owners" to the gallery as well.
After gaining a little inspiration from our tour of the center's galleries, we explored the rest of the 600-acre Secor Metropark to create a few images with our own cameras!
A compass point on one of the center's two outdoor patios marks the trailhead for several different short trail loops in the park, many of them less than a mile long.
The short trails, playground, playfields and picnic areas make this a particularly nice park to visit if you happen to have your kids with you. Other park amenities include a Window on Wildlife station where you can view some of the park's wildlife from an indoor viewing area, picnic shelters, an indoor meeting room and a 4.8-mile cross-country ski trail.
Secor Metropark is part of the larger Oak Opening region, which is a sandy tract of land about 25 miles long and 5 miles wide and is an unusually diverse ecological region for northern Ohio that includes a few low sand dunes. The park also boasts more native dogwood trees than elsewhere in Ohio, and the trees have unusually large bases to help stabilize them in the park's swampy ground.
I remember thinking that we need to return to Secor in the spring as we walked the trails because the area looked like one that might be a good place to see and photograph trilliums.
Revenue earned from the sale of a downtown Toledo parking lot allowed for the purchase of the land to establish the park in 1953.
Much of the land was once the Jacob Wolfinger farm, and the Wolfinger Cemetery (established in 1853) is part of the park. The Wolfinger family was among the first settlers in the area, so there are some fairly old graves with interesting headstones and inscriptions. The cemetery is also a working cemetery, with a burial going on earlier in day during our visit to the park
Visitors should make a point of checking out the Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve while they are at Secor Metropark.
Irwin Nature Preserve is a 226-acre plot of restored wet prairie adjacent to Secor Metropark owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The prairie plays host to more than 26 state-listed plant species and a number of rare birds and butterflies, making it a station along the Lake Erie Birding Trail.
A handicapped accessible 1-1/4-mile boardwalk creates a trail loop through the prairie from a small parking lot at the trailhead.
Secor Metropark and the Irwin Prairie are about 10 miles west of downtown Toledo.
Secor Metropark is open from 7 a.m. until dark daily, with some extended hours during the winter for recreational activities.
The National Center for Nature Photography at Secor Metropark is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and during special events or programs. You can also connect with the center on Facebook.
Admission to the park, preserve and photography center is free.
© Dominique King 2014 All rights reserved