By Camille Staley
If you're looking for a way to shed those extra calories from your
Thanksgiving meal, Athens is begging you to take a walk in one of many
glorious parks, which are currently all a-glow with the colors of
Autumn. If you would like to know how many miles/kilometers/steps you
need to walk in order to pretend Thanksgiving dinner never happened, try
this nifty Calorie Calculator.
If you live on the West Side of Athens, great parks to visit include Ben Burton Park or Bishop Park. Located off Mitchell Bridge Rd, Ben Burton Park is nestled along the Middle Oconee River, and the view of its rocky shoals is quite nice. There is a large grassy field, perfect for playing frisbee or soccer, and picnic tables, grills, and benches.
If you are in the downtown area, take a stroll on the North Oconee River Greenway, our city’s tribute to the river which flows languidly through the middle of town. At one end of the Greenway is Dudley Park, a beautiful paved trail with streetlamps, educational markers explaining the history of the area, wrought iron sculptures memorializing William Bartram, and an expansive area of green grass where you and your Thanksgiving crew can chill out after your walk.
From the Greenway parking area, located at the corner of College Ave. and MLK Dr., it is about a 3.5 mile walk to Sandy Creek Nature Center. The Center will be closed on Thanksgiving, but the 5 miles of trails through the Oconee Forest will be open.
Memorial Park and Bear Hollow Zoo, off Milledge Ave., will be closed for Thanksgiving, but those of you craving a hike in Five Points can visit the Birchmore Trail, adjacent to the park. This nature trail was named for Fred Birchmore, a beloved Athens resident famous for traversing the globe on a bicycle, hiking through several countries and building the Great Wall of Happy Hollow. The trail is located in the middle of Athens, yet gives hikers a feeling of remoteness as it winds up and down and ends up at the famous wall. Mr. Birchmore will celebrated his 100th birthday in 2011.
An option for those who reside on the East side of Athens is the Southeast Clarke Park. This park consists of a skate park, a ½ mile walking trail and a large, community-built play structure for children known as the World of Wonder.
The State Botanical Garden off of S. Milledge Ave. is always a wonder to behold, but it will be closed on Thanksgiving. Try it out during the weekend, as the landscaped garden and wild forest trails will both provide equal opportunity to revel in nature and get some exercise, too!