A 1.7-mile nature trail complete with fitness stations, a pond filled with aquatic life and a wood-carving dedicated to a student's memory await those exploring the "WILD School" site at Union Local Schools.
"This is the 121st wild school in the state - and the first in Belmont County," said Lindsay Rist, communications specialist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, during a Wednesday dedication ceremony at the school.
ODNR established the WILD School program in 1994 to encourage schools to take action in order to improve their school yard habitat for wildlife, while using the site to teach lessons in the many subjects of their curriculum.
Photo by Casey Junkins
A wood-carving dedicated to the memory of Rob “Duck” Kemp, a former Union Local High School student who died of leukemia in 2008, greets those walking along the nature trail at the school. Gathering around the carving are, clockwise from bottom left, Rob’s sister Roxie Kemp, mother Missy Kemp, sister Cally Kemp and family friend Tonya Carlile.
"A WILD School site project allows teachers to take lesson plans outdoors, bringing conservation education concepts to life for students," said Jen Dennison, wildlife education coordinator for ODNR. "An added benefit is the improvement of schoolyard habitat for wildlife and people, which enhances outdoor learning experiences."
Superintendent Kirk Glasgow said the vision for the nature trail and eventual WILD designation began about six years ago.
Now, although he is still seeking additional funding to improve the trail, Glasgow said the project has really benefited the schools.
"We are glad to get the kids out into the woods to get them active. When the teachers say, 'We are going to the trail,' the kids get excited," he said.
Those walking along the trail will find butterfly gardens and bird feeders. There are also tree identification markers offering information about popular species along the path. All of the projects at the site have served as a basis for the various classroom lessons, a main component of the WILD program.
The trail also features benches, picnic tables, distance markers and 10 exercise stations.
The entire trail was designed to benefit the students and community for educational, fitness and recreational purposes.
Also along the trail is a wood-carving dedicated to the memory of Rob "Duck" Kemp, a former Union Local High School student who died of leukemia in 2008. Walking on the trail Wednesday were Rob's mother Missy Kemp, sisters Roxie and Cally Kemp, as well family friend Tonya Carlile.
"It's really nice that it is here to remember him," said Missy Kemp of her son.