Carrie Pitz is on a picnic mission.
The Dayton mom of three has plotted a summer of dining al fresco at each of the 18 parks in the Five Rivers MetroParks system. “We were shocked to find out there were 18,” she says. “That’s a whole lot of picnicking. Being the Type A personality I am, I made a spreadsheet with points of interest and amenities and planned when we would go.”
With summer underway, Pitz and her children, ages 13, 6 and 3, are ticking off their list, packing fruits and vegetables and plenty of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as they tour the region’s parks. “Children love the novelty of eating outside,” she says. “We are such a plugged-in society. It’s a way to reconnect with nature.”
To plan your own picnic adventure, begin by browsing Five Rivers MetroParks’ website at www.metroparks.org. Maps of each park show the amenities and picnic shelter locations. The park system has 44 shelters available for rental, which are also available on a first-come, first-serve basis when not reserved. (Rent online at metroparks.org/reservations.)
Many shelters are located near nature play areas, and all are in park settings with easy access to hiking, fishing, cycling and water play features. For example, Skeeter’s Shelter at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark is tucked in the heart of the Children’s Discovery Garden, and the Farm Shelter at Possum Creek MetroPark is within an easy walk to the farm animals and restrooms.
And to keep that picnic a pleasant experience, research food safety. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, bacteria multiply rapidly as food heats up in the summer temperatures.
Pitz has fond memories of picnicking with her family as a child, and now she wants to create those outdoor experiences for her own kids. “As a single mom, it’s important to find things for the children to do that are cost efficient,” she said. “Picnicking is one of those things.”