STOUT — Book worms and outdoors enthusiasts now have a little bit of both worlds following the unveiling of a new walking trail at Shawnee State Park on Friday.
In Scioto County for the ceremony, First Lady Fran DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz introduced the latest Storybook Trail before local media and the Shawnee State University Children’s Learning Center.
“I think these trails are so important because they combine getting a little exercise, being outdoors, and reading books,” the first lady said. “I think there’s nothing more important than for children right now to be able to read, enjoy reading, and just being outside.”
This half-mile trail, the 11th in the state, features the book “Brother Eagle, Sister Sky” where 15 panels feature pages of the book with accompanying activities. The book is part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, a program available to all Ohioans that sends free books monthly to children from birth to age five.
The message of this book, DeWine said, is to foster respect for the earth.
“I think that’s such an important message for all of us and all of our children,” she said.
ODNR, in collaboration with the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, started the Storybook Trail in 2019 with the goal of reaching all children in the state.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, DeWine said the program’s importance could not be overstated.
“For so many children, these were the only books they got,” she said as libraries were closed.
The trail is among a bevy of additions going into the area, formerly home to the Shawnee State Golf Course. Updates to the camp store and a new fueling operation have already taken place, while ongoing construction includes a playground, fitness trail, splash pad, archery pad, and more.
“What you’re seeing is the beginning of an $8 million-plus investment in this county,” said Mertz. “We want to make this work. We want to make it a tourist destination.”
There are currently 286,751 children enrolled in the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, where those wishing to participate can do so by visiting https://ohioimaginationlibrary.org/
A full list of ODNR’s Storybook Trails, as well as similar trails located at parks and library districts across the state, can be found at ohiodnr.gov. An interactive map of all Storybook Trails can also be found on that website.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter. © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.