A common misconception about parks I’ve found is that they are best enjoyed in the warmth. The spring and summer bring green lushness and vibrant blooms to our landscapes. With autumn comes crisp air and the golden hues of leaves, but also a reminder these vistas are quickly coming to an end. Once full of leaves, barren branches now cut open a fleeting blue sky. Winter is upon us, but it shouldn’t lessen our appreciation of parks anymore.
I took the time to visit Four Mile Creek MetroPark’s Mill Race Preserve Area recently and was quickly reminded of the onset of winter. I exited my car, and the frigid air greeted my arrival as my nose turned a bright red. The trees were bare, and the vibrancy of wildflowers had disappeared from the fields, but the charm of this park is still very much alive.
Located just outside uptown Oxford and near the Oxford Area Trail System, this park is easily accessible to those in the area. There are two other sections of this park found along the Four Mile Creek: Antenen Nature Preserve and Sycamore Bluffs Area. Each section offers unique features, however, today we will focus on the Mill Race Preserve Area.
Approaching the park, you’ll likely spot the Black Covered Bridge, a picturesque gateway toward the green space. From there, you’ll discover the park’s two trails. Pugh’s Mill Trail is a 0.4-mile loop and provides direct access to the Fryman Farm Trail, which is a 1.6-mile loop. I delved into each of them, allowing my mind to find peace among the sounds of nature. As a busy college student with final exams and projects looming in my future, spending time on the trail has allowed me to find peace among the noise. Spotting the tiniest of nuances in nature has humbled me as I’ve realized my miniscule place in the world.
I instantly noticed the absence of green in the park’s meadows. Just a few weeks prior they were lush fields, sprinkled with wildflowers and buzzing with the activity of friendly pollinators. It can be so easy to look at this park in its current state and deem it as lifeless and dull as compared to its prior state. However, with the right perspective, one can spot a new form of beauty.
It is so fascinating to watch our landscapes change through the seasons. The meadows at Mill Race are still very much recognizable, yet its grasses and flowers have dried into a tawny bronze. Leaves that once filled the trees now blanket the ground. The changes in nature represent its unending cycle. When it comes to what makes a park, Four Mile Creek is a testament to the new forms of beauty that appear throughout the year. As aspects in our environments are lost, others are gained. No one season of nature is greater than the other, but all are crucial to its survival. Recognizing this can create an appreciation of the earth that is forevermore.