On April 20th, Sippo Lake parkrun launches in Canton, OH, becoming the second parkrun event in Ohio and the 30th in the US. The free, weekly, timed 5k run/walk on beautiful trails grew out of the parks department’s efforts to help Stark County residents enjoy time outside in nature to improve health and fitness.
Offering a free, timed 5K (3.1 mile) run/walk every Saturday, parkrun is enjoyed by millions around the world and has grown in popularity in the United States in recent years. On April 20th, Northeast Ohio will get its first parkrun with the launch of Sippo Lake parkrun in Canton.
Sippo Lake parkrun will be the second parkrun in Ohio — the first launched in Mansfield in 2017 — and the 30th in the US. Appealing to runners, walkers, dog owners and families, this community event gives everyone a reason to enjoy time outside in a local park and improve their health and fitness.
Families can enjoy parkrun together. Kids aged 4 upwards are welcome to walk or run (staying with a parent if under 11). And younger kids can join in, too, as strollers are welcome. Four-legged family members are not overlooked. Dogs can take part too (one dog per person, on a short leash).
The course follows the beautiful trails of Sippo Lake Park. A crushed limestone trail takes participants around the newly constructed Wildlife Conservation Center, then along the Cottonwood Trail through wetlands, then back to the limestone trail. The start and finish, close to the Exploration Gateway, has ample parking and restrooms.
As parkrun is also about building community, a coffee social will be held after each event at the nearby shelter during warmer months. The organizers are exploring options for a year-round venue with local businesses and organizations.
Co-Event Director and Stark Parks employee Samantha Collmar is passionate about health and fitness. She is also a certified coach, and she represents Ohio at the Road Runners Club of America. She, along with a Stark Parks’ colleague, oversee the Healthy Adventures program. Beginning in 2011 as Hike-A-Hundred, the hiking-only program expanded to Healthy Adventures, adding Let’s Ride (biking), and Running Stark (running). The program now promotes a more active lifestyle while providing encouragement, support, and goals.
Healthy Adventures participants have collectively logged over 75,000 miles! As Volunteer Coordinator for Stark Parks, Samantha has a faithful band of 450 volunteers, some of whom have already joined the leadership team for Sippo Lake parkrun. Like all parkrun events, Sippo Lake parkrun will be put on year round by a rotating team of volunteers, drawn from the pool of parkrun participants. Stark Parks’ strong existing volunteer base will help to get the event off to a strong start. They have 4-legged volunteers, too.
Stuart Hamilton is the other Co-Event Director for Sippo Lake parkrun. Stuart is also a trustee of the board of Friends of Stark Parks. He first experienced parkrun while visiting family in the UK. He never misses an opportunity to join in Huntingdon parkrun with his sister and nieces. A long-time resident of Canton, Stuart enjoys biking the trails and quiet country roads of the region and is a keen runner through his participation in triathlons.
Samantha, Stuart and Kayla Klement, one of Sippo Lake parkrun’s first volunteer Run Directors, first met at a Running Stark event. It wasn’t long before they began discussing how to start a local parkrun. After participating in the Mansfield parkrun and meeting that event’s team of volunteers, the plan to start a Sippo Lake run was solidified. Samantha and Stuart then met with the leadership team of the local park and trail system, Stark Parks, and the supporting 501(c)3 agency, Friends of Stark Parks (FOSP), to gain support for the event. Both organizations were highly supportive and FOSP provided the initial funding for the event, supported by its generous members.
When a new dot appears on the parkrun USA map, it’s because a local team of passionate volunteers have worked in collaboration with local park authorities to select a course and the community has supported the effort financially. As was the case for our community, the goals of the parks department and the mission of parkrun went hand in hand. Park leadership quickly recognized the value of welcoming and supporting the cost-effective, well-developed model that is parkrun and it was only a matter of time before a parkrun found a home here.
Northeast Ohio is also a destination for many endurance athletes and their families. Runners come from across the country and around the world because of the competitive opportunities and amenities. Akron, Cleveland, and Canton all host marathons in addition to the Burning River 100-miles Ultra-thon. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park, north of Stark County, has been voted one of the top national parks for trail running. Of course, parkrun is far from an endurance event made for high-performance athletes, but we welcome them just as we welcome anyone else who wants to complete the 5K course at whatever pace they wish.
All parkrun events are created to serve the local community, but “parkrun tourism” is certainly a thing. Often, people with a parkrun in their home community who travel to an area for work or pleasure check to see if there is a parkrun nearby. Sometimes trips are extended or side excursions are planned to incorporate a parkrun. So, don’t be surprised if you hear a British or Australian accent as people are chatting before the start of Sippo Lake parkrun. There are over 1,700 events taking place in 20 countries around the world every week, and the only thing a person needs to participate in any one of them is their personal barcode. Just as with any parkrun, they will find a friendly crowd of locals to welcome them to our event.
Any out of town guests will appreciate the variety of tourist activities in the area. In Sippo Lake Park itself is the Wildlife Conservation Center. Live animal exhibits are open for public viewing and showcase how native animals live in the wild. The indoor atrium features rotating displays and exhibits throughout the year. Outdoor enclosures house non-releasable wildlife ambassadors that permanently live at the center. Both areas are open to visitors with free admission during regular hours.
Close to the start/finish area the Exploration Gateway includes beautiful views over the lake plus a branch of Stark County Libraries and the Congressman Ralph Regula Canalway Center, an exhibit hall that features a canal boat adventure and exhibits showcasing environmental stewardship, Ohio & Erie Canal history, and local business innovators.
Canton is also the birthplace of American Football and the home of the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Sippo Lake parkrun launches on April 20, 2019. Runners/walkers can register and choose “Sippo Lake” as their “home” parkrun beginning March 30. A one-time registration generates a personal barcode that can be printed and brought to any parkrun on any Saturday. Make sure to print yours and bring it to the launch event! The event will begin at 8 am, but please arrive 15 minutes early to meet others and listen to the pre-event briefing, where the team will explain the course and the details of how parkrun works.
Everyone is encouraged to participate at their preferred pace, whether running or walking. And parkrun guarantees that no participant comes in last. Volunteer tailwalkers claim those spots, as they’re tasked to walk behind and make sure everybody makes it back safely. New and experienced runners and walkers will appreciate the opportunity to view results as well as their participation and volunteer history through the event’s website.
Participants are encouraged to check the event page for any cancellations due to park conflicts or weather-related emergencies or any additional notifications. Sippo Lake parkrun will go ahead in all weathers — sun, rain, or snow — as long as it is safe to go ahead.
Facebook: Sippo Lake parkrun
The team is grateful to Friends of Stark Parks and the generous members for funding the weekly parkrun, to park staff for their support and encouragement.
The team is also grateful to parkrun USA ambassadors Karen and Steve Crane of Mansfield, OH parkrun for their support throughout the start-up process. Karen and Steve brought parkrun to Mansfield, a town about 60 miles from Sippo Lake, in early 2017. Since then over 100 events have been held on the B&O Trail and thousands have completed the course, forming a warm and supportive community of walkers and runners.
We are excited to see a similar community emerge at Sippo Lake parkrun.
Mansfield, OH parkrun has seen thousands complete the 5k run/walk on the B&O Trail since launching in early 2017
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