The opening of a first-of-its-kind trail in Forsyth County featured a number of local leaders, students and even a duck on a bicycle.
On Wednesday morning, Leadership Forsyth’s class of 2019 hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Haw Creek Park for the opening of a new Story Walk, which features pages of the children’s book “Duck on a Bike” posted on several stations around a walking trail.
“We now have a place for families and children to come to read, to walk and spend quality time as a family,” said Brandi Cannizzaro, principal at Alliance Academy for Innovation and a member of this year’s leadership class.
Each stop on the trail has a page of the book along with questions and activities, such as asking readers if they can gallop like a horse or what their favorite food is. Before and after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, students from Otwell Middle School took visitors around the trail and read to them.
“We tried to make sure that the adults are involved with the children learning, and also, that children are involved in the adult learning,” said Pamela Burlingame, executive director of Literacy Forsyth. “Parents can bring their children to this, experience that activity and learning and reading together.”
In time, more Story Walks are expected to pop up at schools and parks in the county.
“The goal of the Story Walk project is really to expand throughout the county,” said graduate Mike Evans. “Even though this is the very first one, which we are excited about, it is designed so that every page that’s on the signs around here are actually removable, and the goal is that as this grows through other parks, that the books can be interchanged throughout the parks.”
Kristen Morrissey — a 2009 graduate of Leadership Forsyth who serves on both the county’s library and school boards — said her own children grew up hiking and reading as a family and felt the project would give more families that opportunity.
“Based on being a parent and my work in libraries over the years, I really believe setting that foundation for learning how to read at a young age really gets them engaged and makes them lifelong learners, so this project, to me, is the culmination of the things I care about: parks, libraries and education,” she said.
Andy Coleman, also graduating this year, said the class wanted the project to also have an emphasis on health.
“Essentially, we’ve taken advantage of the fact that we’re such a wonderful community that has been voted seven straight years the healthiest in Georgia, and we’re going to build upon that with literacy rates, and we’ve brought a trail of a book here,” he said.
The 2019 class of Leadership Forsyth had about 35 members and was the 20th class to graduate since the program began. Previous projects include starting the Mentor Me program, a National Guard memorial walk at the Cumming Regional Readiness Center, basketball courts at the Bald Ridge Lodge and a mobile food pantry for The Place of Forsyth.
“Each year, the Leadership Forsyth Board of Directors, they provide each class the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership by performing a class project that will benefit our community,” said Tammi Bramblett, executive director of Leadership Forsyth. “The class is given the goal to identify and complete a service-oriented class project to benefit Forsyth County and develop leadership skills and aptitudes. This project definitely met that goal.”