Words by Matthew Merchant

Plum Creek Park

Kent, Portage County

In brief: The ideal community recreation spot concealed near a residential neighborhood but perfect for students looking to have fun on the athletic fields or picnic with friends.

When you think of the typical rural neighborhood-recreation spot, you might just be thinking of Plum Creek Park. Located in the middle of a residential area, the park is bordered on one side by straight-as-an-arrow railroad tracks and the winding, curvy creek bed from the Plum Creek Reservoir and contains a myriad of community recreational facilities.

For a city park, its 25-acre space is well hidden amidst the bustling traffic of Cherry Street and Mogadore Road. I actually never knew it existed until I started researching potential sites for this blog. I am so glad I came across this spot, though, and encourage students to check it out.
There are picturesque picnic shelters that can be used for family reunions, outdoor classes or even birthday parties, playground equipment for children (or adults who are a child at heart), a baseball field, basketball and volleyball courts and even horseshoe pits. There’s even a community garden spot with in-season herbs and vegetables.

When you pull into the park, the first thing you might see is the massive playground area. Where some parks might have a swing set and slides, Plum Creek has several different play areas. The Kent Junior Mothers Group funded the playground area, Tree City Play Park, in the early 1990s, geared toward all age groups and accessible to the mentally and physically disabled. If you don’t like kids, this is the area to avoid: Every time I head to this park, at least 15 kids are running around, laughing and just being kids. Of course, if you’re a “big kid,” you can always join the fun.

If you’re looking for the Plum Creek from the park’s name, you won’t have to look far: The creek bed forms the entire western border of the park. After a hard rain, the reservoir might overflow over the banks, but at any other time, the creek is a lazy, picturesque river flowing over old railroad quarry stones. If you’re looking for a nice spot for afternoon reading, head past the small outdoor amphitheater to the river’s edge. There are grassy spots here and there and even some oak trees to provide a shady spot. Away from the athletic fields, this part of the park is stunning when the leaves begin to change.

For the athletes headed to Plum Creek, bring your favorite sports equipment because there’s a spot for you. From the baseball diamond that dominates the park’s main field area to the sandy volleyball courts in the farthest corner, visitors to the park can find their niche. Basketball? There’s two full-size courts. Horseshoes? There’s a pit at the end of the loop road near the entrance. Swimming? Well, not necessarily. Train-track balance beam? Not unless you want to get arrested.

That’s the interesting thing about this park: the railroad tracks run just alongside the property but aren’t blocked off. Signs posted every 100 yards or so warn park visitors of the dangerous area and restriction of staying off the track. Though you might find it tempting, do not follow the tracks or practice your tightrope walk on the rails. The danger is real. Be careful.

In the end, Plum Creek Park is an amazing example of what a recreational area can be. It encompasses all aspects of outdoor spaces, from athletic areas to picnic facilities and a natural environment. I always recommend heading to a local park during fall if for nothing else but to enjoy the beauty of colored leaves.

Recommended Equipment:

  • Tennis shoes
  • Volleyball, baseball, basketball or horseshoe equipment
  • Picnic lunch/dinner
  • Books and a blanket

Directions from Kent Campus:

    Head northwest on East Summit Street.
    Turn left on South Water Street/State Route 43.
    Turn right on Cherry Street.
    Plum Creek Park is on the left just past the railroad-track overpass but before the four-way stop.

Estimated travel time: 5 minutes driving, 10 minutes biking or 30 minutes walking.