The Morgantown area’s newest walking pathdesigned and constructed in part by WVU students and facultywill be officially unveiled this weekend with music, storytelling, science presentations and recreational activities.
The Learning Trails Grand Opening Celebration is scheduled from 1-4 p.m., Saturday, May 3, at South Middle School, 500 E. Parkway St., Morgantown . The four-mile handicap-accessible trail features 12 learning stations that educate visitors about unique plants and trees found along the trail. The path links the nearby residential community with South Middle School and White Park. In case of inclement weather, activities will be moved to the school’s gym.
Event activities include Carnegie Science Center’s”Environmental Emergency,”an educational session on bugs hosted by WVU Monongalia County Extension agent Tom McCutcheon, guided nature walks by WVU faculty and community volunteers, performances by the South Middle School Jazz Band, storytelling by author and WVU faculty member Mary Furbee, and children’s activities. Those that visit all 12 learning stations will receive a water bottle. The activities are free and open to the public.
Along with WVU students and faculty, the trail was designed and constructed by community volunteers, Monongalia County School students and others who contributed more than 900 hours of volunteer and course-based labor. Educational materials were developed for kiosks along the trail by the Morgantown Fun Factory, a developing children’s museum.
Many area organizations partnered in the trail’s development. Educational groups that participated included: Monongalia County Board of Education, Kaleidoscope Community Learning Centers, Monongalia County Technical Education Center, WVU Office of Service Learning Programs, and WVU Extension Service, along with WVU students and faculty from the College of Human Resources and Education, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences.
Several nonprofit community groups also contributed to the trail project including: Mon Valley Greenspace Coalition, Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners (BOPARC), Monongalia County Litter Control Office, and the United Way.
“The Learning Trail has been a unique opportunity for WVU students to contribute to the Morgantown community, both as volunteers helping to construct the trail, and as students learning about hands-on science education projects and parks and recreation principles,”said Jill Kriesky, director, WVU Office of Service Learning Programs.”I am very proud of the collaboration on this project, and look forward to many more with these community partners.”
The trail is already being used by several South Middle School and Kaleidoscope Community Learning Center students for educational purposes and community members as a recreational facility. Teacher and student learning packets have been sent to each county elementary and middle school to encourage trail-based educational activities. Hands-on learning kits are also available on a check-out only basis.
“The Learning Trails project has demonstrated the power of collaborative efforts in our community,”said Lynn Sobolov, Kaleidoscope coordinator, Monongalia County Schools.”It is gratifying to see so many people from different organizations come together to create a permanent contribution for the benefit of everyone in the community.”
The project was initially funded by a three-year $70,000 grant from the Community Higher Education School Partnership grant through the Corporation for National Service, which was mainly awarded to the Mon Valley Greenspace Coalition. The City of Morgantown, through BOPARC , and the West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Recreational Trails Grant Program each contributed $60,000 toward the trail’s development.