Opened in 1948, Blacklick Woods was the first Metro Park, a green space fashioned in what then was a small town. It soon led to a hearty bunch of other county parks and provided a model for managing a tract of woods amid the open maw of urban sprawl.

Opened in 1948, Blacklick Woods was the first Metro Park, a green space fashioned in what then was a small town. It soon led to a hearty bunch of other county parks and provided a model for managing a tract of woods amid the open maw of urban sprawl.

Commercial parks, strip malls, housing developments and a golf course lap at its borders, yet there it stands - 643 acres of gorgeous green in the heart of downtown Reynoldsburg.

The location has also proven a blessing over the years: In 2009, Blacklick Woods drew more than 935,000 visitors, more than any other Metro Park.

If you're going for the first time, start at the nature center, which offers wildlife displays, educational reading and exhibits about the park system's eco-friendly initiatives. Wide viewing windows look onto several active birdfeeders, a small pond and woods through which families of deer and other mammals commonly wander.

From the center, trails branch northward into denser forests and swamps, the park's primary natural features. Take the right leg of the Buttonbush Trail toward the Walter A. Tucker Trail, a connecting jaunt named for one of the founding directors of the Metro Parks.

Tucker also helped to establish Ohio's nature preserve program, and you'll now be standing in a 55-acre preserve that bears his name. Here the walking surface oscillates between crushed gravel and winding boardwalks elevated over a damp forest floor home to a good collection of moisture-loving plants, vines, bushes and wildflowers.

After the brief connector comes the Maple Loop, a good section of hardwood forest, and the Beech Trail, a circular path through the towering giants noted in its name.

On your way back, take the opposite sides of each trail to keep things interesting. The entire network totals only two miles, so you can do it all in a very leisurely afternoon.

Blacklick Woods isn't a big park - but it's a good one. It's a testament to preservation under pressure and is one of those important places where Columbus residents first taste the great outdoors.

More places to hike, picnic, camp, paddle and enjoy nature await at the Ohio Adventure Map, available at columbusalive.com/venture.