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Kids learn, exercise on Barkcamp’s Storybook Trail

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Union Local third-graders taught by Autumn Swallie and intervention specialist Amy Kinder visit Barkcamp State Park on Tuesday along with other students after a new Storybook Trail was unveiled.

BELMONT — Young visitors to Barkcamp State Park can now enjoy a children’s book as they hike down a new Storybook Trail.

The project was brought to the park by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, working in partnership with the Imagination Library and the office of Gov. Mike DeWine. ODNR Director Mary Mertz stopped by Tuesday for the trail’s ribbon-cutting, and park Manager Jason Carpenter said the trail is a welcome addition.

“That’s an initiative from the governor and the first lady. They’re putting them in across the state,” Carpenter said. “We happened to get one this year. They’re kind of incrementally placing them in parks. … It’s a trail that’s built with the premise of coupling the outdoors with reading, and I think it’s a wonderful thing. … It’s really a neat thing for the youth of Belmont County and the visitors of Barkcamp.”

He added that he and his staff are proud of the trail.

“We put this trail in a place that didn’t have a trail previously. It was the entrance to a fishing area which was an old, dilapidated bridge. My staff did a phenomenal job rebuilding that bridge and building a staircase into the trail,” Carpenter said. “That entranceway into that storybook trail is something to behold. It’s a testament to the work ethic and the pride that my staff take in that park.”

He also commended volunteers from Equitrans Midstream. Carpenter said employees with the natural gas transmission company assisted.

“They worked hand-in-hand with my staff to make it a reality,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said he and his staff were honored to have Mertz present.

“She’s a great asset to our organization and she’s very forward-thinking,” he said.

Carpenter said watching the reactions of local school children who visited Tuesday was rewarding.

“They seemed to enjoy themselves. I followed some of the kids around the trail, and they had some conversations with the director that were amusing and funny and she seemed to enjoy herself. That’s what that trail is for. It’s for the enjoyment of all Ohioans and all of our visitors.”

Carpenter hopes more visitors will be drawn to the park by the trail. Carpenter said there are 17 storyboards along the trail.

“They’re made to be interchangeable with all the other places that have them … so we can move stories and keep the story fresh. … We can move them to another park and trade with another park to get a different story in,” he explained.

In addition, a small, free library is set up at the entrance to the trail. Visitors can take a book and bring a book.

Following the unveiling, the director visited Wolf Run State Park in Caldwell.

Union Local School District’s third-graders visited during the unveiling and took the first tour through the story that is currently showcased: “When the Storm Comes,” by Linda Ashman, which tells the story of woodland animals attempting to hide during a storm.

While one group of third-graders took the tour, another enjoyed a presentation from Kelsey Miller, ODNR naturalist, who showed them different animal pelts and read them the book. She also showed them a turtle, similar to one of the characters.

“I think these trails are a great way for people to get outside and have something to look at as they’re walking along. It adds a nice, pretty area to the parks,” Miller said.

Other ODNR employees gave presentations and planted a tree.

“That same story is presented up on the storybook trail, in large weather-proof signs in little stations,” Amy Kinder, intervention specialist at Union Local, said. “At the bottom (of each page) it asks questions, has the kids use their imagination, and it’s a half-mile, round-the-loop trail. The kids loved it.”

“I appreciate them inviting us over for this dedication,” elementary school Principal Zack Powell said, adding he hopes attractions such as the walk encourage reading and a love of nature. “Getting the kids out and reading is something that I think all of them would enjoy.”

“It was very fun,” third-grader Aubrey Allar said. “Our tour was very nice. We had a good time. My favorite part had to be the middle of the story into the end. I liked how at the end they said the weather had cleared up and they could go outside and play and enjoy the fun outdoors. The walk was very fun.”

She said she hopes to walk the trail again when another book is displayed.

“I’m going to bring my whole family because this was very fun,” she said.

Third-grader Desjah Heatherington agreed.

“I liked the end of the story,” she said of her favorite part.

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