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Kelly Mill, Lions Club team up on Braille Trail, butterfly garden at Fowler Park
Tanya Nallani and Ria Reddy, two students at Kelly Mill Elementary, spend their Saturday afternoon planting in the new Monarch Butterfly sensory gardens at Fowler Park. - photo by Alexander Popp

Patrons of Fowler Park now have a new feast for the senses thanks to members of the Forsyth County Lions Club and dozens of elementary school students from Kelly Mill Elementary.

This week, the ribbon was cut on the recently completed trail and gardens at Fowler Park, officially opening a 250-yard long Braille Trail and two butterfly gardens.

According to Shaun Wright, spokesman for the Forsyth County Lions Club, this project was completed as part of their community legacy project, that each Lions Club chapter in the country was challenged to complete in 2017 after the group’s centennial anniversary celebration.

"We saw that there was a need within the community, because there really is no braille trail within Forsyth County, and the nearest one is a couple of counties over," Wright said.

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Students from Kelly Mill Elementary examine one of eight signs on the new Braille Trail in Fowler Park. - photo by Alexander Popp

He said that the trail, a long, mulched path with guide ropes leading from the sidewalk, allows the visually impaired to walk along the trail while reading about a variety of different topics from eight Braille signs.

“If you go to Fowler Park, for those who can see, there are a lot of things for them to do … but there are much fewer activities for those who have vision problems or hearing issues,” Wright said. “… so we just felt it was important, since we serve the entire community, to make sure that we serve those that have disabilities.”

He said before they began the project, the area containing the new trail was maintained by the Rotary Club of Forsyth County, which has a large "peace garden" statue at the center of the space. Wright said both the rotary club and the county were fully on board with the trail project, and that in the future the Lions Club will help to maintain the area.

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Students and teachers from Kelly Mill Elementary pose in front of one of their Monarch Butterfly sensory gardens in Fowler Park. - photo by Alexander Popp

“Everyone in our club has the opinion that we are blessed, regardless of our circumstance. There are those within the community that may not have the same abilities or capabilities that the vast majority of us may have. They deserve to be supported as well,” Wright said.

Meanwhile, Laura Fedorchuk’s students at Kelly Mill had wanted to plant a garden in the Forsyth County community for some time. The group had been studying Monarch butterflies for the past few years. They built a Monarch way station at the school last year. But the desire to build a Monarch garden in the community remained.

Fedorchuk and her students met with representatives with the county parks and recreation department earlier in the year and presented them their plan to build gardens for the butterflies in public spaces like Fowler Park.

"They looked over their plans and designs, and said, ‘How about we start small, pick one park and I have a perfect opportunity for you,’" she said.

"They agreed and here we are," she added with a laugh.

Fedorchuk said that at Kelly Mill they have developed several phrases or "tenants" of attitudes and actions they want to see in their students including; Colts who care, wisdom seekers, difference makers, world changers and family. She said that projects like this one touch on all of those tenants.

"And so what they have done is they've taken this, and they know that doing this kind of stuff helps Forsyth County, but also helps the Monarch butterfly population," she said.

On March 14, Fedorchuk and her dozens of her students were out at the park digging and planting the gardens, readying them for the ribbon cutting later in the week.

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Steve Williams, 2nd Vice District Governor of the Lions Club district 18-I, and other officials speak to a crowd before cutting the ribbon on the new Braille Trail and Sensory Gardens at Fowler Park. - photo by Alexander Popp

She said that the project was almost wholly researched, designed and executed by her students, with very little help from adults.  

"They have had to do math, science, they researched the plants,” she said. “This is all them.”

Two youngsters, Tanya Nallani and Ria Reddy, were among the dozen or so Kelly Mill students out in the gardens on Saturday and spent a good amount of the day digging and planting different plants. 

Both Nallani and Reddy said that their favorite part of the day was digging in the garden and getting the chance to get their hands dirty.

"I think my favorite part was planting and spreading the mulch," said Nallani.

"It was really fun to interact with the community," Reddy added.

Fedorchuk said that her students are already planning their next garden for Midway Park in west Forsyth.