Memories to Fill a Lifetime at Riverbend Recreation Area
There was the time my kids and I spotted a deer along the trail and crept closer to get a better glimpse, then froze…maybe we were too close. Or the time the kids invented their own version of American Ninja Warrior and conquered the playground with a smash to the final buzzer. Or the many times we celebrated the end of school with a lakeside picnic and invited Dad to join us from work, soaking in the summer sun and refreshing breeze. Or…
One of the many reasons I love Findlay and Hancock County are the wonderful parks. Though each holds its special place, I feel like I practically raised my babies – now 11 and 8 – at Riverbend Recreation Area. There is always an adventure to be had and bonding to be done, whether it’s through discovery, exercise, or just time spent in nature.
Riverbend, located at 16618 Township Road 208, features 129 acres of forest, 101 acres of conservation area, Giertz Lake, the Blanchard River, reservable shelters, picnic sites, three playgrounds, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, an 18-hole disc golf course, campgrounds, a one-acre enclosed dog park, and Brugeman Lodge, which can be rented. Loaner fishing equipment is available and horseback riding is allowed.
In the winter, the Hancock Parks District offers cross country skiing workshops and equipment for rental and during autumn, park-goers can enjoy fall color hayrides. Park visitors can also check out Hancock Parks programming, or the reservoirs which offer a host of water recreation opportunities as well as a loop around the perimeter for walking or running.
Riverbend is a park that grows with you. I can still picture my tiny children, just barely able to walk, tottering on the beginner playground. Mom needed to always be right there, lending support as unbalanced feet learned to climb the ladder, or holding a little hand as they bravely ventured down the slide. I can still see their little giggling faces swaying back and forth on the bucket swing, sharing what could only be called pure joy.
We’ve progressed through the years, mastering the three playgrounds, which offer a variety of physical feats for different ages. Lately they love to swing to the heights, or create an American Ninja course to compete against each other. Guess who is the timer?
A hike through nostalgia
The paved trails throughout Riverbend are kept up nicely, so much so that I roller-blade there. I often load our three bikes in the van, or I roller-blade while the kids bike. My 11-year-old son, Ben, and I once took several laps, myself rollerblading and he, biking. We started counting animals – squirrels, colorful birds, and especially bunnies because we could hardly believe the thrilling bunny mania happening at the park that night.
As we continued our laps, we realized most of the bunny tally could be attributed only to one who had moved just enough to seem new each time we passed. We still laugh about that.
Sometimes we hike the trails, and inevitably the kids will want to build a fort in the same spot amid a clump of trees by the river. They clear brush to tidy their fort’s grounds and collect wood to make sitting areas. Probably three years ago in the winter we packed hot chocolate and string cheese to snack on at “the fort,” once it was all arranged. They still talk about how great it was.
A winter hike is not uncommon for us if the weather is reasonable because we’ve learned you just never know what magic Mother Nature might have in store. Water sometimes collects in low-lying areas in the woods, then freezes, creating a no worry “skating” rink, or a delightful place to smash the ice or simply marvel at its beauty. I find myself happily crunching and cracking right along with the kids, even if one of us will likely head home with a “hot foot.”
I have rented equipment and cross country skied the trails at Riverbend. There isn’t much better in the winter than laughing through the fatigue with a friend or focusing on the quiet beauty of the forest if you’re alone. Upon your return, park officials always have a crackling fire awaiting in the shelter house with toasty hot chocolate.
And of course I must mention the birthday parties.
The way it’s been going, my 8-year-year daughter, Rosalynn, may have her hayride fall color birthday party at Riverbend until she’s 18, or maybe even her whole life. To date she has had four such October celebrations and after each proclaims, “I want to come back for my birthday next year!” It’s cool with me. We rent an enclosed shelter arrange for the hayride, pray for decent weather, and it is always memorable and apparently boundless fun.
For as long as I live in Findlay, my family and I will visit Riverbend, one of the very happiest places I know. We’ve got a lifetime of memories still yet to be made..and it doesn’t hurt that my son still often presents me with a bouquet of carefully selected flowers, quietly gathered during the day’s adventure.