Greater Dayton’s environmental resources are abundant. Traveling around Dayton and its suburbs, you’ll find an area that offers remarkable natural beauty.

Five Rivers MetroParks provides an array of park experiences: Deeds Point’s stunning downtown views, the horticultural artwork of Wegerzyn Gardens’ formal plantings and Aullwood Garden MetroPark’s nationally recognized historic estate garden with its thousands of Virginia bluebells that cover the hillsides in late April. If you’ve been to these parks or to Cox Arboretum’s spring floral displays, RiverScape’s fountains, gardens and river attractions, or Sugarcreek MetroPark’s mature forests, you’ve sampled some of the variety that Five Rivers offers.

And that’s just for starters.

It’s so easy to go to Glen Helen, Clifton Gorge—which is one of the most spectacular dolomite and limestone gorges in Ohio—and Beaver Creek Wetlands’ numerous marsh and prairie trails without worrying about traffic or the driving distances that such destinations elsewhere often require.

Consider the availability of rivers and lakes, their attractiveness for relaxation and for boating, fishing and other water sports. Take a drive through the lush farmlands and countryside.

We have bike trails that run through urban and rural areas. The bikeways' extensiveness, attractiveness and accessibilty rival anything I've seen anywhere in this country. Montgomery County offers more than 70 miles of paved trails. To the east, Greene County lies at the heart of the Midwest’s rail trail biking, with more than 60 miles over five, major paved trails.

With neighborhood parks and picnic areas dotting the region, there’s plenty to see and do.

And on street after street, residents have planted their own gardens, which many created lovingly and with considerable skill. The gardens add to a neighborhood walk or drive with their appealing artistry.

Environmental resources such as these not only enhance communities and their quality of life, but also serve to define them.

Imagine if citizens over the decades had not labored to see these offerings created and protected.

I’ve lived in and traveled to many places over the years, and I’ve always looked for what the local areas offered in the great outdoors, whether it’s hiking, biking, skiing, running, backpacking, boating or gardening. My experience tells me that Greater Dayton offers a natural environment that is priceless and rare.

Until the next issue, enjoy spring unfolding around Greater Dayton and know that we are blessed to be in such a welcoming natural environment, just waiting to be discovered and explored.

Since 1970, Carol Siyahi Hicks has lived and worked in Greater Dayton as a journalist, national literary magazine editor, communications and marketing professional, author, and most recently at The Dayton Foundation as the vice president of public relations and marketing. Her book, Gifts from the Garden, has a local setting and is a philosophical and joyful look at gardening, nature and life.