Now that winter has finally arrived, the parks and recreation department is encouraging residents to get out and enjoy it.

And after a heavy snowfall hit the area last weekend, there’s plenty of raw material for snowmen, snow women, and other potential snow creations just lying around on the ground.

The Aurora Parks and Recreation Snowman competition is underway through Feb. 28. Residents are invited to create their own snowman, favorite character, animal or winter scene in any Aurora park or in their own yards.

"We’ve never done it before," said community events coordinator Tina Gerber, who came up with the idea.  "I was just searching for things that were free, that I could add to the city’s list of activities."

Once a snow creation is completed, snow crafters should submit a photo, including its location and the names of everyone involved in its construction for a chance to win a prize. 

"We’re trying to get people out to the parks in the winter," Gerber added. "In winter, sometimes people are holed up. We’re just trying to get them outside and active with their families and friends."

The snow creation doesn’t have to be a traditional snowman, but it should be appropriate and any added decorations must be cleaned up when the sculpture melts. Send submissions to gerbert@auroraoh.com. See www.auroraoh.com, or call 330-562-4333 for further information.

Winter field trips

Those interested in a less-crafty winter activity may want to show up for one of the National Audubon Society’s weekend field trips.

On Saturday, Jan. 26, there will be a winter hike through the 113-acre Michael and Lenore Molnar Sanctuary, located at 850 Page Road.

Hikers will gather at 9:30 a.m. at the Dog Park parking lot on the east side of Page Road a few hundred yards north of Mennonite Road.

Jim Tomko, president of the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland, will lead the hike.

"We are going to be looking for tracks in the snow and signs that other animals are using the trails beside us," he said.

Tomko said birds are also easier to spot in the winter and there is also a beaver family that may be visible, if the pond isn’t iced over.

The hike is one of a series the society tries to host each month. Tomko said they started about 15 years ago. Turnout depends on the weather and topic, with more than a dozen showing up on some trips. Other times, "there’s just a couple of us out there." 

"It’s January in Northeast Ohio, let’s go out and feel it," Tomko said.

For more information on Saturday’s field trip, call Tomko at 330-562-5506.

The February field trip is a late winter bird count, where participants will meet at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 24 at Bretschineder Park parking lot on the north side of Pioneer Trail a few hundred yards east of Page Road. Participants will help with the annual winter bird survey. It is a good opportunity to get started in "birding" as the bird-watching hobby is known.

A "Waterfowl Wander" is scheduled for March 30 at several lakes and ponds in southern Geauga and northern Portage counties. This outing should feature many species of migrating ducks.

Eric Marotta can be reached at emarotta@recordpub.com.