Storytelling is an ageless joy that keeps getting better. At several Black Swamp Conservancy-protected properties, families have enjoyed walking Storybook Trails for several years. These first trails were laminated book pages mounted to simple sign frames posted at intervals along walking trails that could be picked up and moved between the Conservancy’s preserves. Classrooms and families told the Conservancy how much they loved this addition to their nature walks.
Last year, we installed our first permanent Story Book Trail at Pat & Clint Mauk’s Prairie in Wood County. Now, a permanent story trail is coming to our Dr. Robert L. Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve in Port Clinton.
We plan to keep the reading experience new and fun by partnering with schools and libraries to select and post nature-based stories relevant to the season and the location. Imagine reading about how bees make honey as you watch and listen to pollinators busy in a summer flower prairie. Or learning about the last leaf left on the tree as fall leaves shower their colors down around you in an autumn woodland.
Fresh air, exercise, and being surrounded by the beauty and surprises of nature improves physical and mental health. Add in a storybook and a walk becomes a rich educational activity for people of all ages, introducing new vocabulary and new information about ecological relationships that are all around you. Mycelium is a big word, but the fairy ring of mushrooms that grows from it is something you can see and touch. The idea of a parasitic plant might be hard to explain to a child but seeing dodder or mistletoe feeding off its host can make the concept come to life. Love for the natural world is built through these experiences. The Story Book Trail is a captivating way to introduce people – especially children – to the value of our natural resources and the role we all play in protecting them.
If the Story Book Trail makes you want to take a book home, look for the book box managed by the Catawba Stewards of Little Free Libraries group at the trailhead. As the Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve becomes even more a part of the community, we look forward to adding to the family fun nature activities on Catawba Island.
The Story Book Trail is flat and mown, accessible to people using strollers or wheelchairs. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk.