RECENTLY UNVEILING a unique reading experience for children and readers of all ages was the Franklin County Library with their latest project, the Stand Tall Trail Tale, that opened to the public in July at the Winchester City Park. The trail is a series of high-quality panels that are set along a quarter-mile path that tells the story of the children’s book, “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon,” alongside a paved walking path. The trail was placed along the banks of Tims Ford Lake at the Bass Club and Citizens Pavilion.
Panels were placed at a height of 18 inches to accommodate children, said Franklin County Library’s executive director, Tina Stevens.
“They are mounted low to the ground for children and toddlers. They’re also accessible for children that are in a wheelchair, walker, or any type of walking apparatus,” she said.
Stevens explained that the idea was brought to life, thanks to the help of a few individuals and then with the support of the community.
“We thought, how cool would this be,’’ she said. “To have something like this for Franklin County kids and families. So we joined Kelly Ware, with the department of health, and she helped us cultivate this idea of having a Trail Tale sponsored by the Franklin County Library, along with some other friends. Kelly then put us in touch with the City of Athens and Austin Fesmire with their parks and rec (recreation) department. We began to flesh out ideas and then decided, ‘If we’re gonna do this, let’s do it right.’”
Stevens said that off of the recommendations of Fesmire, they knew exactly what was needed to make the trail a success.
“They shared with us a product that they used, and a company they got them from,” she said. “The panels are virtually indestructible and national park quality, and the images are actually embedded in the laminate, so they’re very durable. I’m hoping they will last my lifetime.”
Stevens added that they also used the same book as Athens Park and Recreation, something that she said helped to save the library thousands of dollars. While cost can be an issue with projects such as these, Stevens was determined to see it come to fruition. She was not alone in her mission. Thanks to help from the community, the dream of the trail was made to become a reality.
“There was a lot of support with this project,” she said. “The Friends of the Library kicked in over $6,000 just by selling books. We had [Franklin County] AM Rotary who gave $800, along with the Stewart family. The city of Winchester did the installation, and they will also do the maintenance for us.”
There are also plans in the works to put a trail in Huntland, something that Stevens is equally excited about.
“We are gearing up for our next one in Huntland,” she said. “The one in Huntland will be bilingual. Leslie Jones and Rebecca Meadows are both with the Huntland Interact Club, and they’re going to get these kids fired up to help raise money to do this one in Huntland. We’ve already gotten permission from the city, and it will be around the walking track down there at BlueCross BlueShield playground.”
Stevens said that both trails are meant to show the community that the library is focused on promoting literacy and getting folks excited about reading far outside the walls of the library.
“One part of our mission at Franklin County Library is to promote literacy and encourage lifelong learning while also providing a space to share, connect, and create. And providing that space doesn’t necessarily mean this building,” she explained. “That space can be anywhere Franklin County Library can create space. Anywhere for people to connect, create, [and] share. And also, at the same time, we’re promoting literacy, encouraging lifelong learning, and enriching the community, so this Trail Tale checks off every single one of those boxes.” GN