The Tennessee Department of Environment and conservation (TDEC) recently recognized Long Hunter State park for Excellence in Innovation for park staff's demonstrated ability to improve the park through new ideas. The innovative project Long Hunter accomplished in 2016 was the Reading Ranger Story Trail, which combines outdoor recreation and literacy for children and families.
"All 56 Tennessee state parks strive and succeed in achieving our mission to preserve and protect unique examples of natural, cultural and scenic areas," TDEC Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Conservation Brock Hill said. "But Long Hunter went above and beyond in 2016 thanks to the talent and skills of park staff and creative partnerships with local communities."
The Reading Ranger Story Trail features reproduced images from a children's nature book, author Marianne Berkes' "Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek," as interpretive markers along a quarter-mile wooded loop. The self-guided trail combines the love of reading with outdoor recreation in an effort to get more kids outside and support statewide literacy goals.
"The Story Trail was developed with families and young children in mind," Park Ranger Leslie Anne Rawlings said. "The signage motivates kids to keep reading until the end, and they're actively learning about their natural environment at the same time."
The Story Trail was a collaboration between Long Hunter State Park and the Mt. Juliet branch of the Wilson county Library. Library Director Tracy Horvath helped in selecting the book and with promotion. Peggy Simpson, library board member and director of the local Books from Birth Foundation, attended the ribbon-cutting in June 2016, along with Claire Jones of the Imagination Library and Hill.
The current Story Trail will be up and accessible to visitors until May, and the park will unveil a new story in June.