LEWISBURG — On Saturday, Sept. 10, Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine joined officials in the Village of Lewisburg for a ribbon cutting celebrating a new Storybook Trail in Lewisburg Community Park.
“In 2018, a strategic plan was developed to improve the quality of life in our community. Lewisburg’s mission is to develop a thriving community, to lead by example, and present opportunities for others to contribute to a safe, healthy and desirable place to live, work, play and visit,” Mayor Marsha Jones said in welcoming everyone to the event. “This storybook trail provides a healthy place to play while connecting with nature, along with the joy of reading. Thanks to all who contributed to making this improvement to Lewisburg community park possible.”
The village was a recipient of new Storybook Trails funding offered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trails Program. The trail currently features the book Curious George, written and illustrated by Margret Rey and H. A. Rey. Curious George, and his friend the Man in the Yellow Hat, joined in the celebration.
First Lady DeWine was also instrumental in helping bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program to Ohio communities. “One of the things I love about working with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is the Storybook Trails,” she said on Saturday. “We actually have about 20 of them now in our state parks, and it’s been fun. There’s one close to where I live, at John Bryan State Park, and it’s ‘As an Oak Tree Grows,’ which is kind of a cool story. My grandkids love going back there. It’s not just that you read these books once, you get to go out onto this trail again and again and again. And that that’s a lot of fun.”
“l love the Storybook Trails. I’m so glad that you’ve done one here and that you’re going to be able to change it out,” she added. “I think that’s going to be really, really good for the kids. You know, the reason that books are so important — we know that a child’s brain is 80 percent developed by the time they’re three years old. So we don’t want to raise those early years.”
Village Fiscal Officer Susan Laux also spoke during the event, thanking entities who helped make the project a reality, including the Cargill Cares Foundation, Delta Phi Sorority, the Boy Scouts, and Brown Memorial Librarian Mary Ellen Lakes.
Lakes thanked DeWine and shared some of the history of Lewisburg’s path to creating the new Storybook Trail.
“I want to say thank you, First Lady Fran De Wine for taking time to be here with us today and for your commitment to promoting literacy and for supporting libraries in the great state of Ohio. It’s an honor to have you here.
Lakes continued, “The journey to this story book trail began about two and a half years ago when I put up a temporary storybook trail here in the park as a way to reach out to patrons and keep them engaged during those early months of the pandemic when all of us were stuck indoors. It gave children and their families something to look forward to and allowed our patrons to share in a common activity even when we couldn’t gather inside the library.”
Lakes said she later set up two such trails for a field day at the school which were well-received. “So, I decided, well, maybe I was just tired of setting them up over and over again,” she noted. “I decided I wanted a permanent one, so I nagged Jeff (Sewert, Municipal Manager) for a year, and he relented and then he found money to get it done. And here we are. I’m really excited about it.”
According to Lakes, the storybook pages will be changed out every three months to keep the trail interesting.
“What I really want to say today is that it’s been said that Lewisburg is the hidden gem of Preble County. It’s on a t-shirt, I have it, so it must be true. And do you know why that is? Because this village is very cooperative. This community is a very cooperative community — the village, the library, local businesses, local organizations, the Boy Scouts and other individuals all worked together to get this project completed,” Lakes added.
“I’ve lived in multiple communities during my years here on Earth. And I have never seen anything like it. It’s amazing. I want to thank Jeff Sewert and the mayor for supporting my idea, and the park board for supporting my idea,” she said. “This is kind of a dream come true for me. As the library director, obviously literacy is my primary motivation, but I know that it will offer so much more. It’ll give families a chance to be together, spend some quality time together, outdoors. Children will be exposed even to art through the illustrations. And they’ll be in nature. Give them a chance to look around at the trees and the bugs. But I just want to thank everybody.”
After the ribbon-cutting, First Lady DeWine walked the storybook trail with the children in attendance.
Ohio’s Storybook Trails bring books to life for children and families. Storybook Trails are lined with pages from a children’s book to blend the fun of outdoor exploration with reading. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources launched the Storybook Trail program in 2019 to promote the importance of literacy, a healthy lifestyle, and connecting with nature. The grant for Lewisburg ($7,856) was part of $28,000 in funding awarded in February of this year to several communities.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.