Gainesville Parks & Recreation is always looking for ways to improve parks throughout the city and make them more appealing to guests. Recently, there have been too many updates to count, but there have also been some additions, one of which is a new concept for the area.
A new storybook trail has been installed at Wilshire Trails, giving children and parents an opportunity to get outside and have fun reading a book. Numerous stops along the .5-mile trail off Wilshire Road have a page from the book “Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek,” that teaches about animals and numbers. It has an English and Spanish translation and comes with all the illustrations, too.
“What makes this trail even more unique than the ones that are out there like it is the design,” said Julie Butler, marketing and communications manager with Gainesville Parks. “After this book has been out six months to a year, and we have another book, we’ll put another trail in another park and all we have to do is pull out the pages and take them to another trail.”
Within the next few years, she hopes to have installments like this in at least five parks throughout the community. By partnering with United Way’s Read Learn Succeed program, the Hall County Library System and the Gainesville City School System, she doesn’t think that will be a problem.
Butler said Wilshire Trails is one of the busiest parks in the city, so she knew it was the best place to put the first storybook trail. She knew it would have a “huge audience” and hopes to see it thrive with all families stopping by the park.
“Read Learn Succeed, their focus is reaching readers at the earliest age possible, just to get them reading, no matter what the language is, to prepare them for school,” Butler said. “We have so many young families that visit Wilshire Trails, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
Ruth Demby, coordinator for the Read Learn Succeed program, agrees.
To her, parks in the city are an “incredible resource,” used by many families. Through her work with United Way, she hopes to give families the opportunity to get outdoors while helping guide children in their literacy learning.
Through that same work, she’s seen that not every child is fortunate enough to have books in their home, an issue she said, “some of us can’t conceive.” That’s why this project was so important to her.
“For kids who have very few books in their home ... those children and their families, they can have access to quality children’s book, both in English and in Spanish now,” Demby said. “That’s just a great experience.”
And it’s an experience everyone involved hopes the community enjoys.
“We just wanted to be innovative, educational and add something more because families are going to be in Wilshire,” Butler said. “So it’s a great place to exercise and learn as a family.”