It has been relatively disappointing (for me, Adam doesn't seem to care) and disheartening. Most of the "trails," especially in these smaller parks, are very short, poorly marked, and not in great places for trails. For example, Bradley Woods Reservation is a small metropark in a suburb that does not have a lot of green space. It's necessary to the community and it boasts six trails. Two of these trails are excellent trails. Bunn Lake Loop is a gravel path around a small pond that is poorly maintained, but in an excellent location and relatively dry. The All Purpose Trail is a paved trail near the front of the park that is oddly disconnected from the rest of the park. It requires a walk down the road into the park, which has no sidewalk and not much breakdown lane. In short, it's not safe to get from the parking area to the paved all purpose trail, which isn't in any woods and runs along the road, so it's not particularly scenic. A third trail, the Quarry Loop Trail, is an ok trail if it had regular maintenance. It is in need of boardwalks in wet areas and widening as well. It circles remnants of the old quarry, through the woods, and is rather pretty. But it's a little hard to discern, since it's across the road from the parking area, with poor signage, it's a little weird to get to it. The final trails are just crap. They were completely flooded, which was frozen when we went. In the fall and the spring, they would be impassable. Furthermore, this is the only park I have ever seen that has a sign about mosquitoes!!! It is laughable that there is an informational sign which details the importance of mosquitoes and identifies the park as a swamp. Now, why even put these trails in the woods? They are incredibly short, poorly marked, and largely impassable for at least half of the year.
The thing is, this is the case with many of the parks. Huntington Beach is an excellent park right on the lake which boasts five trails as well as an all purpose trail that is less than a mile long. Unfortunately, the trails are barely trails, the blazes on trees (worst way to mark trails) are hard to read, and when the trails have connectors, they aren't even marked. Because of this poor maintenance and insistence on putting half mile loops in small patches of woods, the Cleveland Metroparks suffer a unique fate that other parks avoid; locals make extra foot trails wherever they want. There were several access trails to Huntington Reservation from the neighboring residential streets. They weren't marked, of course. The trail along the creek was unidentifiable as well as flooded because it's in a poor position and entering and exiting it was on such a steep, poorly maintained trail that it was nearly dangerous.
I do not understand why Cleveland Metroparks insists on having these incredibly short and poorly maintained trails that are hard to follow. They aren't a benefit to the ecosystem, since park goers clearly make their own paths. I think the benefit to the community is relatively small. Sure, it's green space, but it's irresponsible to allow such a large population to use green space with such reckless abandon. The land should be protected and the trails should be obvious, well maintained, and easy to use, so that people learn to respect the space they're in. Instead, it's not uncommon to see teenagers galavanting wherever they want within a park.
You might be thinking that the problem with teenagers happens everywhere, but I can assure you it doesn't. Akron has a couple of parks in highly populated areas with trails from neighboring communities. These trails are well marked and very clear, making it less easy for people to disrespect the land by traipsing about wherever. When someone tries to make an offshoot, Summit County Metroparks will often lay down small logs to prevent the trail from becoming established or even put up a railing and a clear marker for where the trail actually goes. Cleveland, on the other hand, will have three trees in the middle of a trail, all of them with blazes demarcating the trail, and with five foot paths in varying directions around the trees.
I'm not actually looking forward to completing this goal, because these sorts of poor choices have been consistent in every park I have visited.
The only upside was finishing Acacia Reservation, an old golf course that is becoming a more natural park. However, the website lists one trail and the park actually has three paved trails, one of which is closed. The current map details one trail, which would be much longer than the website states, and it appears to be all one trail...but it's not. The website also fails to list trail closures. This is just pathetic and lazy, honestly.
Cleveland Metroparks needs to remove some of its trails, especially within the swamp that is Bradley Woods, and invest in some type of ground cover to help delineate the existing trails. Crushed limestone, mulch, gravel, and pea gravel are all excellent options...as well as building boardwalks or laying stone in the areas that become incredibly muddy. A muddy trail is a vulnerable trail. People don't like mud, so they continue to widen the trail instead of walking through the mud. Boardwalks and rocks prevent the mud from becoming distasteful and keep the trail in decent shape. Blazes don't work, and neither do little symbols nailed to trees (which will grow around them). Instead, trails need sign posts, especially in areas where it's easy to create an offshoot. This would make the trails easy to follow and encourage people to stay on the trail.
I love what Cleveland brings to the area in terms of green space, and I would never want the parks to disappear. However, they could learn from Summit County and from Cuyahoga Valley National Park about just what it takes to create trails that provide an outlet for visitors as well educating them on how to respect the land and how to use the land while still giving the land space to be wild.
Nevertheless, three reservations have been checked off our list, and we have just over a dozen left to complete! We've had a wet winter and we're going to have any even wetter spring, so I definitely need to invest in some rubber boots to finish this goal!