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When winter cooperates, Metea County Park near Leo-Cedarville offers cross-country skiing.

Get outdoors, snow or not

Reflect on one of winter’s great traditions: Ice skating outdoors. The rink at Headwaters Park is open daily through March 4.
The hill next to the golf course parking lot at Shoaff Park is among popular sledding locations around the city.
The toboggan run at Pokagon State Park operates with or without snow – it’s refrigerated.
File photo
The Trail Trekkers weekly hike is among outdoor programs offered at Fox Island County Park.

We can’t promise snow, but we can offer up some of the area’s best winter recreation to help you make the most of wintertime in northeast Indiana.

Some of the suggestions do require snow, but there are quite a few that need nothing more than an outdoor spirit and some warm winter wear.

Skating

Winter calls to mind old-fashioned scenes of people all bundled up and skating on ponds and lakes as big, powdery snowflakes fall gently all around them.

While the weather has been quite cold lately, it’s not been cold enough to freeze the city parks’ ponds and lakes enough for ice skating. Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation has announced that skating ponds at Lakeside, East Swinney, Franke and Reservoir parks remain closed because of thin ice.

The parks department places red lights and flags at the ponds to indicate when conditions are not safe. A notice will be posted online at www.fortwayneparks.org when ponds are available for skating and other activity.

Headwaters Park ice skating rink offers the perfect skating spot for families, friends or a date night. Order a hot chocolate and sit and watch the skaters, or lace up a pair and join the action.

It’s open through March 4. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, 1 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Admission is $5 for ages 14 and older, $3 ages 13 and younger. There is a $2 skate rental fee. Skating is free to ages 13 and younger every Wednesday. Call 422-7625 or go to www.fortwayneparks.org.

Canlan Ice Sports, 3869 Ice Way, offers public skating as well as hockey. You can check out times and prices at www.icesports.com/fortwayne or call 387-6614.

Cross-country skiing

Fox Island County Park, 7324 Yohne Road, and Metea County Park, 8401 Union Chapel Road, offer ski rental when there is 4 inches of snow or more.

Skiers can keep track of when the trails are open at www.allencountyparks.org. The site includes a stoplight that signals skiing conditions. Green means there are rentals; yellow means bring your own skis; and red, of course, means no skiing.

Rental prices at Fox Island and Metea parks are $6 an hour for adults and $5 an hour for ages 12 and younger. Rental is available 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pokagon State Park in Angola offers ski rentals when there is a base of snow of 5 to 6 inches on the trails. The park operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The cost is $5 an hour for ages 15 and younger and $7 an hour for adults. There are trails for different skill levels. Call 260-833-2012.

Sledding

There’s nothing quite like a good sledding hill to build memories of winter. Whether you use a sled, tube or board, there are several options in Allen County for a good snowy ride.

Metea County Park offers a 20-foot hill, but it isn’t open unless there is enough snow. Like the skiing, the sledding also has its own traffic light at the Allen County Parks website that tells you whether the hill is open: Go to allencountyparks.org/parks/cross-country-ski-conditions. When available, the hill is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Other sledding spots:

•Shoaff Park, 6401 St. Joe Road, in the golf course area

•Northside Park, East State Boulevard and Parnell Avenue

•Reservoir Park, along South Clinton Street

•Franke Park, 3411 Sherman Blvd.

Snowboarding

Although it doesn’t have a half-pipe, the BMX track at Franke Park is a good spot for snowboarders, Fort Wayne parks officials say. Another suggestion is Shoaff Park near the golf course.

Toboggan

Pokagon State Park offers a refrigerated track, which means there’s no snow needed. Four people can get on a toboggan at once.

After you’re launched in the sled, it takes about 20 to 30 seconds to get to the bottom of the track – about a quarter-mile from the 30-foot tower. Speeds range from 30 mph to 40 mph.

The track is open through Feb. 24. Cost is $12 an hour.

Don’t forget about the park entrance fee, which is $5. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Hiking

Enjoy the sights and sounds of winter with a hike on many of the park trails.

Fox Island and Metea parks offer hiking as well as many outdoor programs.

On Saturday, there will be a coyote howl at Fox Island, in which hikers will follow trails to search for signs and listen for sounds of coyotes.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m., and cost is $2. Space is limited. Call Ron Zartman at 449-3186 or email rzartman@allencountyparks.org about registration.

The Little River Ramblers Nature Hike happens every Tuesday from 9 to 11 a.m. Sponsored by the Little River Wetlands Project, the hikes begin at the Eagle Marsh barn, 6801 Engle Road.

The event is free. Call 478-2515 or info@lrwp.org for more information.

Many state parks offer winter hiking trails, including Pokagon. You can check out www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2392.htm#propertylist for a list of other area state parks and their information.

trich@jg.net

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